The Italian Civil Aviation Authority has decided that overhead luggage lockers in planes constitute a health risk and therefore, passengers travelling to or from Italy by air will no longer be able to use them.

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The new rule results from a government decree, prompted by fears of further spreading the novel coronavirus, that specifies travellers may only board with a bag small enough to slide under the seat in front.

The intention is to prevent close contact between passengers and limit movement in aircraft cabins.

An Italian consumer association, Codacons, welcomed the decision on Friday, saying it would “avoid the chaos” which sometimes occurs in the cabins “when passengers place their luggage in the overhead compartments”.

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“In this area, the Italians are among the most unruly travellers in Europe, causing delays and queues which today would fuel the risk of contagion,” the association said.

Italy was the first country in Europe to be hit by the coronavirus which has so far killed over 34,600 people in the country.