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Russians cancelling tours to Italy over coronavirus fears

Italy is at the moment the European country worst affected by the coronavirus

MOSCOW, February 25. /TASS/. Russian tourists have started requesting cancellation of their earlier booked tours to Italy, which is at the moment the European country worst affected by the coronavirus, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) said in a report on Tuesday.

"Reports about coronavirus cases in northern Italy circulated by the media have sparked concerns of the tourists planning their holiday in that country. Tour operators are reporting numerous requests for cancellation with the deduction of incurred expenses, but few of them have been carried out so far," ATOR said.

Most often, the tourists are asking about the localities that have been isolated by the Italian authorities for the time being. Since these are small settlements with the population of 3,000 to 5,000 people, that are not popular with the tourists, most Russian tourists for now decide against canceling their trips to Italy, the association said. On most occasions, individual trips to major exhibitions are cancelled, however mainly because the events have been suspended, the Association of Tour Operators explained.

Up to 7,000 organized tourists may be staying in Italy at the moment, while with a glance to individual travelers, the figure may grow to about 20,000, it said. Most Russian tourists on package tours (up to 40%) are currently staying in Rome. There is also a significant amount of Russian tourists at Italy’s ski resorts, while some of them are part of guided tours with stopovers in several provinces.

None of the tourists on package tours has asked their tour operators to terminate their vacations ahead of time. "The receiving tour operators report that they organize the programs in Italy in full compliance with all recommendations from the authorities. Some of them exclude visits to cities and places where restrictions have been imposed. Instead, they offer the tourists to visit alternative cities and sites," ATOR said.

On December 31, 2019, Chinese health officials reported a cluster of cases of acute respiratory illness to the World Health Organization in Wuhan, an economic and industrial metropolis with a population of 11 million. The virus - now named COVID-19 (2019-nCoV), otherwise known as the novel coronavirus - was identified on January 7, 2020.

Apart from China, 33 countries, including Russia, have reported confirmed coronavirus cases. According to the latest data, the overall number of people who contracted the novel coronavirus in China is about 77,600, as many as 2,663 people have died and over 27,200 have recovered.

The World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, describing it as an epidemic with multiple locations.

A local outbreak of the novel coronavirus has been reported in northern Italy, where more than 230 people were infected as of February 24. Most of the infected people live in the northern region of Lombardy. Seven people have died. The local authorities are taking strict quarantine measures, the neighboring EU states are considering imposing border epidemiology controls.