March 9 (UPI) — All sporting events in Italy have been suspended until next month because of the coronavirus outbreak, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed Monday.
Conte said the suspension, which is part of a countrywide lockdown due to the disease, will go into effect Tuesday.
“We’re having an important growth in infection… and of deaths,” Conte said in his address. “We all must give something up for the good of Italy. We have to do it now, and we’ll only be able if we all collaborate and adapt to these more stringent measures.
“This is why I decided to adopt even more strong and severe measures to contain the advance… and protect the health of all citizens.”
Earlier Monday, the Italian Olympic Committee, which oversees all sports in the country, said in a statement that all sports activities will be postponed until April 3, and that it would request a government decree to impose the decision.
The committee’s ruling is expected to impact everything from the country’s top soccer league, Serie A, to preparatory events for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The committee, also known as CONI, said its decision doesn’t include international competition for clubs or national teams since it doesn’t oversee those. Juventus, Napoli and Atalanta are competing in the Champions League, while Inter Milan and Roma are playing in the Europa League.
Italy previously ordered that sporting events in the country be carried out without fans in attendance. Serie A, which hasn’t been canceled since World War II, resumed Sunday with five games played in empty stadiums, including the rivalry match between Inter Milan and Juventus.
More than 5,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 exist in Italy, according to statistics released Sunday from the World Health Organization. The virus has killed at least 234 people in the country and more than 3,500 around the world.
The coronavirus outbreak has impacted sporting events around the world, including Champions League soccer matches and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
The Champions League has instituted postponements and ordered matches played behind closed doors, while Nippon Professional Baseball delayed the start of its regular season because of the virus.
“We can’t play games in the current situation, where for every one person in a large crowd, two to three more will likely become infected,” Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito told reporters Monday. “If you have games, you have to make a maximum effort.
“If you don’t have the ability to measure body temperatures, disinfect the stadium and equipment, then you can’t be said to be doing your best.”