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Airlines suspend flights to Italy but we can't stop visits here

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Ryanair is suspending flights to Italy

Ryanair is suspending flights to Italy

Ryanair is suspending flights to Italy

Ryanair and Aer Lingus have suspended all flights to Italy, as the European Commission warned that the situation for the EU's aviation industry is "deteriorating on a daily basis".

The budget airline said yesterday that it was suspending all flights to and from Italy this week as the country remains in lockdown, while Aer Lingus has halted flights to Italy until April 3.

Ryanair will suspend domestic flights in Italy from midnight tonight and its international Italian flights from midnight on Friday.

It is planned that, at this stage, the suspension will last until April 8.

The airline said passengers seeking repatriation can obtain a free move to an earlier Ryanair flight operating up until midnight on Friday.

"Affected passengers will be able to choose between a full refund or a travel credit that can be redeemed on Ryanair flights in the next 12 months," it said.

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It came as Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney urged Irish people to cancel travel plans to all parts of Italy but admitted that stopping tourists coming from Italy is out of his control.

In light of internal developments in Italy, the Department of Foreign Affairs upgraded travel advice to Irish citizens, recommending against travel to the whole of Italy.

At the end of January, Italy had its first case of Covid-19, it now has almost 10,000 people infected. Close to 500 people there have died from the virus.

"Up until yesterday, our travel advice for Italy was that nobody should travel to the northern regions, unless it was absolutely essential. Now that is extended to the country as a whole," Mr Coveney said.

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Minister Simon Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney

"The vast majority of the 24 people who have tested positive in Ireland so far, have come from northern Italy, and they brought it home with them.

"It really is totally unprecedented that you'd have a minister for foreign affairs advising Irish citizens not to travel to a large EU member state. But that is the advice."

Mr Coveney said that it is out of his jurisdiction to control flights leaving Italy for Ireland, but that the caretaker Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was to raise the issue of flights and further EU-wide responses at a meeting of the European Council.

"Italy is now in lockdown as a country that 60 million people aren't moving around, except for to facilitate essential work," he added.