The government issued a Level 2 travel warning for all of Italy, extending the area affected by the alert, which previously applied only to the regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the upgrade on Monday, urging those returning from Italy to self-quarantine for two weeks.

“If you are returning from Italy or South Korea, and you work as a healthcare worker, or as a residential aged care worker, you should not attend your regular work for 14 days.

“That is an additional level of protection which has been advised by the chief health and medical officers and accepted by the Australian government.”

Issued on Australia’s Smart Traveller website, the Level 2 warning means the government is inviting people to “exercise a high degree of caution across all of Italy ... pay close attention to their personal security and monitor the media for new risks”.

Meanwhile, a Level 3 issue has been imposed for selected towns in northern Italy, at the heart of the outbreak.

“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy (Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano) and one in Veneto (Vo’ Euganeo), which have been isolated by the Italian authorities,” the warning reads.

These towns are the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected almost 1700 people and killed 34.