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Despite coronavirus Italian government says its safe to visit

DeArbea Walker

Despite a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases, Italy's government reassures tourists Friday that the country is still a safe place to travel.

"If schools are open, if our children are going to school, tourists and business people can come," Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told The Local it.

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Di Maio urged visitors to drown out the rumors that there is panic throughout the country.

"Out of over 7,000 towns in Italy, just over a dozen are affected by this epidemic," he said.

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As hotel bookings continue to trickle down, nearly a dozen cities in the northern part of the country are on lockdown. The number of infections nationally reached 650 and deaths hit 17 which is the highest in Europe, according to the latest figures from the civil protection agency.

Thursday's total of 528 infections and 14 deaths were also a sharp increase from the previous tally of 400 cases and 12 fatalities. The steep rise has been attributed to the civil protection agency not accounting for Italy's northern Lombardy region, which has been the most badly hit by the virus.

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Hotel bookings in one of the country's largest city's, Milan, has fell to 20 percent compared to 90 percent this time last year. In the country's capital, Rome, which is far from the hotbed of the virus, more than 50 percent of bookings have been canceled until the end of March, hotel association Federalberghi said.

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Di Maio added that Italy has more cases than other European countries because it performed mass tests, more than 11,000, catching milder cases of the virus. Experts have criticized the test saying the country is "overreporting" to the World Health Organization.

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