The Italian National Tourist Board has proclaimed that the country is safe to travel to despite having the most deaths from coronavirus in the world outside China.

The virus has killed at least 79 people in Italy, mainly elderly and with underlying serious illnesses.

The Foreign Office continues to advise against all but essential travel to ten small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto in the north of the country which have been isolated by Italian authorities.

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Airlines have cut routes to and from the region and on domestic routes in the country.

But the Italian tourism authority pointed out that only 0.05% of the country is affected by extraordinary measures of temporary isolation of some Italian cities, aimed at avoiding the spread of the virus.

The organisation said: “Italy is a safe country, it is safe to live in Italy and it is safe to travel to Italy.

“The Italian National Health System, among the most efficient in the world, immediately implemented procedures directed at safeguarding citizens and tourists.

“Intense controls made it possible for the Italian government to monitor and contain the spreading of Covid-19 from the earliest diffusion outside the Chinese borders.

“The adoption of extraordinary preventive actions, such as the temporary closure of several sites or the suspension of several events, represents cautionary measures which have nothing to do with the spreading of the virus throughout the Italian territory.

“Only 12 out of 7,904 Italian cities are affected by such measures.”

These were listed as Bertonico, Casalpusterlengo, Castelgerundo, Castiglione D’Adda, Codogno, Fombio, Maleo, San Fiorano, Somaglia, Terranova dei Passerini in Lomabry and Vo’ Euganeo in Veneto.

“The remainder of the country, including the Italian regions where the cities in temporary isolation are located, is safe and accessible,” the tourist office added.

“All services and activities for citizens and tourists are normally provided and the quality of life, for which Italy is famous world-wide, remains high.”