If you’re traveling to Italy for carnival this year, should you be scared about the coronavirus outbreak?  Some people are terrified. Fueled by media hype, many have canceled their trips. Others arrive decked out in full protective gear.

Putting it into perspective

The worry is real, but the deadly virus, dubbed COVID-19, kills fewer people than the annual flu. However, a troubling report claims COVID-19 is 20 times deadlier than the flu! Reports cite fatality rates at 2.3 percent.

CCN reports, “When coronavirus was first publicized, many were quick to drive the narrative that the seasonal flu is more dangerous than the contagious virus. New analysis shows COVID-19 is at least 20 times more fatal than the flu.”

So, it’s no surprise that measures are being taken around the globe to ensure public safety. Amid worries about the coronavirus outbreak, airports are stepping up health checks. 

I couldn’t wait to arrive in Venice for this year’s carnival. Traveling from Belgium, I’d noticed a few people wearing face masks onboard my Brussels Airlines flight. They were most likely concerned about the close quarters onboard. Being sick on a plane is bad news! In fact, one passenger wore a very high-tech mask. She wasn’t ill, just worried.

© Deborah M. Bernstein

Airport health scans

With more than 11 million passengers arriving at Marco Polo International Airport each year, officials want to play it safe. That’s especially true during carnival when mobs of tourists throng through San Marco Square.

On my arrival at Venice Marco Polo Airport, I was stunned. After exiting the plane, we were greeted by officials wearing bright red “hazmat” suits. Before letting us enter the terminal, we were all stopped. My forehead was scanned to ensure I didn’t have a fever. Whew! Cool, calm and collected, I headed into baggage claim. I really wanted to snap a quick photo to capture the adventure, but I thought the guards would have a serious sense of humor failure.

Behind me, a woman was stopped because her forehead registered a higher than normal temperature. Ironically, she was the traveler I’d noticed in a full face mask, heavy woolen hat and scarf. She explained — in Italian — that she was very hot on the plane. But the guards pulled her over. Then, they let her cool down and rescanned her forehead. Luckily, the second scan was successful. She was just overheated. They granted her entry.

Fewer people were in the streets and San Marco Square this year. Perhaps it was due to the coronavirus fears. ©Deborah M. Bernstein

Dwindling crowds

Venice seemed far quieter this year. I noticed fewer people on the streets. Was it because of the recent devastating floods or because of their fears of contracting coronavirus? Perhaps it was both!

Il Gazzettino is reporting that hotels, usually full, are at 70% occupancy. 

The usual throngs of Chinese tourists were nowhere to be seen. We did see some Asian travelers, but a few seemed to get suspicious glances from other tourists and locals. 

Deaths lead to city lockdowns

ANSA news agency reported a second coronavirus death in Italy. In response to the rise in cases, 10 towns have been put on lockdown, according to Euronews. Sixteen cases were reported in just one day. Towns southeast of Milan are canceling public events and closing sports venues, schools and even offices, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Should you travel?

What can you do to keep safe? Check out these tips from the World Health Organization.