The COVID-19 pandemic forced authorities worldwide to implement moderate to severe restrictions in order to slow down or suppress the spread of the disease. It has been observed in several countries that a significant number of people fled a city or a region just before strict lockdown measures were implemented. This behavior carries the risk of seeding a large number of infections all at once in regions with otherwise small number of cases. In this work, we investigate the effect of fleeing on the size of an epidemic outbreak in the region under lockdown, and also in the region of destination. We propose a mathematical model that is suitable to describe the spread of an infectious disease over multiple geographic regions. Our approach is flexible to characterize the transmission of different viruses. As an example, we consider the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy. Projection of different scenarios shows that (i) timely and stricter intervention could have significantly lowered the number of cumulative cases in Italy, and (ii) fleeing at the time of lockdown possibly played a minor role in the spread of the disease in the country.