The holiday plans of millions of Britons could be at risk after the number of coronavirus cases around the world overtook China for the first time.
Brazil yesterday reported its first patient with the illness, which means the virus has now spread to every continent except Antarctica.
Cases were also diagnosed for the first time in Greece, North Macedonia, Georgia and Pakistan.
British Airways yesterday cancelled dozens of flights to Milan due to a drop in demand.
And fresh cases in Spain, France, Croatia, Austria and Switzerland sparked industry fears that people may choose not to go on holiday.
A health worker screens the temperature of a passenger arriving from Milan Bergamo to Krakow International Airport on February 26
AS Roma fans wearing face masks inside the stadium before the match amid concern following a coronavirus outbreak in Italy
Travellers to and from Britain are in limbo about whether they should cancel their business or holiday travel for fear of being exposed to the killer virus sweeping the globe.
Italy has emerged as the epicentre of a European outbreak with 50 more cases, including eight children, reported yesterday – taking the country’s toll past 370. Twelve patients have died.
The developments came as guidance issued to airlines by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency warned passengers not to fly if they have a cough or cold.
Experts fear Europe’s outbreak could have a devastating effect on the tourism industry with airlines worldwide facing up to a £23billion loss because of the virus.
In Italy, the worst-affected areas are Lombardy, which includes Milan, and Veneto, which covers Venice, and Emilia-Romagna.
Since cases of the COVID-19 illness soared in Italy over the weekend they have spread around Europe, with mainland Spain, Switzerland, Austria and Croatia today all declaring their first infected patients
Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough is one of more than a dozen schools which have been completely closed after students and staff returned from Italian ski trips. The Health Secretary has urged them to stay open
A man is pictured wearing a face mask on the London Underground as UK officials step up their preparations for cases of coronavirus to start appearing on British soil
At least 13 schools have closed and 20 have sent pupils and staff home for health and safety reasons after pupils went on trips to the Alps
The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to 11 affected towns in the north of the country.
However holidaymakers travelling to other Italian cities and nearby countries have expressed fears that if they cancel flights they will not be entitled to refunds.
Refunds will only apply to those whose holidays are disrupted when the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel.
Despite British Airways’ cutbacks, other major airlines vowed to continue flying to Italy as well as Tenerife, which has also suffered a major virus outbreak.
Italy saw a devastating surge in coronavirus cases over the weekend, with confirmed infections rocketing from just six on Friday to more than 322 today, and 12 people have died
Worldwide, more than 80,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 2,700 have died
NHS to extend home testing for coronavirus to stop it spreading
The NHS is looking to extend home testing for coronavirus, while a new public information campaign will be launched, Matt Hancock has announced.
The Health Secretary also urged schools not to close unless they had a confirmed case of the virus.
The NHS has already started pilots of home testing for coronavirus in London, where nurses and paramedics visit people with symptoms in their own homes rather than them needing to travel, which risks spreading the virus.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock suggested that home testing will be rolled out more widely, to complement existing hospital testing and the ‘isolation pods’ which have been sited at hospitals in England for people who turn up at A&E with symptoms.
He said: ‘We now have testing sites at all A&E facilities, as far as we know, across England.
‘But we’re also planning to introduce home testing and some of this has started already so that people don’t have to go to the pods in front of A&E which have been put there to ensure that people don’t actually go into A&E where they might infect others.
‘Home testing is the safest place to be tested because then you don’t have to go anywhere, and that will allow us to roll out testing to a much larger number of people as well.’
A spokesman for BA said it was merging some flights between Heathrow and Linate airport ‘to match reduced demand’.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘People are understandably concerned about how their travel plans will be impacted, and a lack of clear and timely information has left many travellers confused about their options.
‘While the government has now updated its advice to cover the Italian locations that have experienced an outbreak, those travelling to nearby cities like Milan or Verona still won’t be able to cancel and claim on travel insurance, nor will those travelling to Tenerife.’
A total of 459 new cases were reported by 37 countries outside of China on Tuesday.
There were also alarming spikes in South Korea and Iran.
On the other hand, China reported 412 cases and the spread is finally slowing, according to the World Health Organisation.
Iran recorded 139 cases and 19 deaths and authorities urged people to avoid non-essential travel.
Anyone coming back from Iran to the UK is being urged to self-isolate for 14 days.
On Tuesday night, Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow announced he would be self-isolating for two weeks after visiting Iran.
Yesterday South America’s first case was recorded in Brazil, a 61-year-old man from Sao Paulo who had returned from Northern Italy.
France recorded its second death, a 60-year-old in Paris.
The Foreign Office is currently advising against all but essential travel to the Hubei Province in China and all mainland China.
The advice also covers Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea.