Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Thursday called on foreign tourists to return to Italy, stressing that the Coronavirus was limited in small, contained areas.
“Our children are going to school,” he told the foreign press in Rome. “If our children are going to school, tourists and entrepreneurs can also come.”
Di Maio said there were just two certified outbreaks of the virus, located in the north, and only a little over a dozen municipalities were affected out of a total of more than 7,000 countrywide.
He stressed that Italy was a “reliable and transparent” country. “We cannot be stigmatised because we are doing more checking,” he added, emphasising that “no one wishes to minimise” the seriousness of the situation.
Di Maio said he regretted the media reports presenting the whole of Italy as a high-risk area. In his words, the many erroneous reports circulating abroad are “harming our economic fabric,” causing more damage than the risk of an epidemic.
For example, occupancy rates at hotels in Milan, the country’s economic hub, located just about 60 km from the main outbreak, has plunged from 85%-90%, the normal rate for this time of the year, to 20%, the local chapter of the Federalberghi hotel association, told AFP.
In the capital, Rome, located in the centre of the country, far from the affected areas, over half of all reservations up to the end of March have been cancelled. Many of the big professional events in Milan, like the Mido Eyewear Show and the Milan Furniture Fair, have been postponed.