Alitalia is to enforce the wearing of protective masks on board flights if load factors mean passengers cannot be adequately spaced.

The Italian flag-carrier has imposed the measure with immediate effect, part of the effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak which has affected Italy particularly badly.

Alitalia is having to cope with severe restrictions to its operations as the government attempts to bring the situation under control.

Passengers will be asked to provide themselves with a protective mask before boarding, and such masks “must be worn” if a large number of passengers means a 1m (3ft) interpersonal spacing cannot be maintained.

Alitalia warns that it could deny boarding to passengers who do not have a mask in their possession.

“[We recommend] travellers wear protective breathing masks also at airports and during boarding and disembarking from aircraft,” the carrier adds.

“Health and safety of travellers and employees has always been Alitalia’s top priority.”

Alitalia says it has taken steps to increase disinfection activities on its fleet, and its aircraft also carry biohazard kits with which cabin crew can deal with passengers suspected to be ill.