BRITISH travellers have been stranded in Italy after airlines axed thousands of flights when the entire country was placed on lockdown yesterday.
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte moved to halt the spread of the coronavirus which, by last night, had killed at least 631 people, with 10,149 confirmed cases.
British Airways cancelled flights until April 4 and Ryanair until April 8. EasyJet cancelled services until April 3, but said it would operate ‘rescue flights’ in the coming days.
BA passenger Jess Nicholls, 43, said she felt ‘dumped’ by the airline after receiving an email cancelling her flight from Rome back to London.
She added: ‘Their website was down, their call centres are overloaded and we got an email after midnight saying our flight was cancelled — it’s putting more passengers in danger.’
BA had refused refunds to passengers booked on flights to Italian airports outside the north of the country until the Foreign Office updated its travel advice on Monday night — meaning some passengers potentially travelled reluctantly, only now to face losses or even a struggle to get home. The airline said it had ‘contacted all customers’ who were due to travel.
Some travellers who managed to return to the UK complained about a lack of advice. Carmine Loru, 39, who arrived at Gatwick on a Vueling flight from Florence, said: ‘There is a lot of paranoia in Italy, but here there is not even anybody checking us.
‘I read that I’m supposed to stay at home for 14 days, but nobody said anything about that on the plane.’
No.10 admitted there were problems with the NHS 111 service that did not suggest people returning from Italy self-isolate. Meanwhile, normally bustling tourist spots in cities such as Rome and Milan stood deserted.
However, queues formed at supermarkets as Italians, who are now allowed only to travel for work or serious health and family reasons, prepared for isolation. Austria has also banned people entering the country from Italy.
In Spain — which has seen 35 deaths — schools were shut in several regions, the lower house of parliament was suspended and football matches were played behind closed doors.
France has seen 33 deaths so far.