The health secretary, Matt Hancock , has clarified advice on travel to Italy following the coronavirus deaths in the north of the country after he was accused of creating confusion for British tourists.
On Tuesday, when asked whether he would travel to the Lombardy region, he said: “I’m not planning to go, put it that way.” His comments attracted criticism that he was contradicting official UK government advice that people should only avoid travel to towns in Lombardy that are under confinement.
Giving an update to MPs on Wednesday, Hancock was asked by the shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, about the “discrepancy”.
Hancock replied: “All but essential travel is not recommended to the quarantined areas in northern Italy and the advice for those returning from northern Italy is very clear, which is if you are coming back from the quarantined areas then please self-isolate and if you’re coming back from the whole of northern Italy then please self-isolate if you have symptoms. I hope that advice is clear. ”
Hancock also told the House of Commons that a wider public information scheme is to be rolled out in the UK as the World Health Organization said that for the first time there had been more new detections of Covid – 38 outside China than inside the country.
“The public can be assured that we have a clear plan to contain, delay, research and mitigate,” Hancock told MPs. He said the government was currently in the “contain” phase but had plans in place should a pandemic take hold and warned people not to overreact, urging schools to stay open.
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