Covid-19 impact reaches Italy with three Serie A games postponed

By David Owen

February 23 – The coronavirus outbreak has started to impact European football, with three matches postponed in Italy’s top-flight Serie A on Sunday.

The rescheduled games included those between Internazionale and Sampdoria, as well as Champions League surprise package Atalanta’s clash with Sassuolo. The other postponement affects the match between Hellas Verona and the Sardinian side Cagliari.

The move follows an announcement by Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte to the effect that people should not leave affected towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to the north of the country without permission. Public gatherings and events have been suspended. Authorities said on Sunday that cases of infection were now well over 100, the majority in Lombardy, with two elderly people having died. The Italian outbreak of the virus, given the official title of Covid-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), is the largest to date experienced in Europe.

Atalanta, based in the Lombardy city of Bergamo, are red-hot favourites to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the club’s first appearance in the competition, having hammered Valencia 4-1 last Wednesday.

Government moves to try to check the spread of the virus have received the support of Giovanni Malagò, president of CONI, the country’s powerful National Olympic Committee.

Malagò, once a member of the Italian national futsal team, told the Italian news agency ANSA that he was in contact with the authorities who had “the responsibility, right and duty to take initiatives and precautions”. He went on: “If there are government authorities and local representatives that give the orders for the safety of citizens, then sport must be changed immediately. If there is an event where one of these cases occurs, sport must stop there.”

Coronavirus is playing havoc with the sporting calendar, especially in Asia, in what is a Summer Olympic year, leading to events being rescheduled, postponed or cancelled.

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