The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has begun to advise against “all but essential” travel to a number of regions in northern Italy.
The move comes in response to various control and isolation measures imposed by the Italian authorities over the weekend.
The Lombardy region – which includes the cities of Milan, Bergamo and Como – and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini (all in Emilia Romagna) are all to be avoided.
At the same time, British travellers are advised against visiting Pesaro e Urbino (in Marche); Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli (all in Piemonte); and Padova, Treviso and Venice (in Veneto).
British nationals remain able to depart Italy without restriction.
Residents of other parts of Italy are permitted to leave the isolation areas to return home.
Otherwise entry into and exit from the quarantined areas is forbidden without official permission on the grounds of strict necessity.
Authorities have confirmed that this will be granted for reasons such as medical need or work requirements.
Italy has been among the hardest hit countries by coronavirus outside of China.
The number of cases jumped to 7,375 over the weekend, while there have been 366 fatalities to date.
Additional restrictions to combat the virus include the closure of museums, cultural institutions and the suspension of all public gatherings, social events including pubs, nightclubs and games halls.
Religious ceremonies and funerals are suspended.
Ski facilities in the affected mountain areas are closed.
Across the whole of Italy, museums and cultural institutions are closed and all sporting fixtures must be played behind closed doors.
Childcare facilities, schools and universities are closed until March 15th.
Public and social gatherings should be avoided with cinemas, pubs and clubs closed.
Responding the decision, ABTA suggested holidaymakers should avoid the regions.
“Customers who are imminently due to travel on package holidays which include the named locations should be offered alternative arrangements by their travel provider.
“If no suitable alternatives are available, package holiday customers should be offered a full refund,” explained a statement.
“Customers who have booked their flights and accommodation directly should speak to their airline and accommodation provider to discuss their options.
“They should also check their travel insurance to see if this will cover any additional costs.
“Customers currently in the named locations should contact their travel provider to discuss their options and follow the instructions of local authorities and local public health advice.”
Image: Xinhua/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images