Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the suspension of all sporting events on Monday; including games in its top soccer league amid Coronavirus concerns.
What is the Coronavirus?
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a viral disease that causes symptoms of fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. In severe cases pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, and kidney failure. The disease began to make headlines in China around the new year, with World Health Orgainzation officials investigating a “mysterious pneumonia.”
By late January China began to quarantine patients exhibiting signs of the disease, but it was too late to stop it leaving the country. Today there has been at least one reported case in over 100 countries worldwide. The COVID -19 virus has caused particular trouble in Italy, infecting nearly all aspects of life. BBC reported the total number of cases in the country has surpassed 9,000, while 463 people have died.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, the government already closed all schools and universities until at least April 3rd. Authorities have stopped prison visits and restricted the travel of 16 million people. They also banned all fans from attending sporting events, creating eerie scenes of teams playing in front of empty stadiums.
— CNN International (@cnni) March 9, 2020
“These days, I have been thinking about the old speeches of Winston Churchill,” Conte said on Monday. “It is our darkest hour but we will make it.”
What events has the virus impacted?
Most obviously, one of the most heated races for the Italian title in recent history could be derailed. With 11 weeks of matches left to play, perennial champion Juventus sits at the top of the table with 63 points. But Lazio, who finished in 8th place last season, trail by just one point. Juventus has not finished below 1st place in Serie A since its seventh place finish in 2010-11.
But Italy is not the only country where sporting events have been forced to be cancelled.
The mens and women’s Six Nations rugby cups in Ireland have been postponed, as well as the Hong Kong and Singapore sevens; while Formula One postponed their Grand Prix races in China and Bahrain. FIFA announced on Monday that Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup were also suspended.
In California, the BNP Paribas Tennis Open was canceled outright, along with some college basketball games.
While no NBA, NHL, MLB or MLS events have yet been canceled or played in front of empty stadiums, media and fan access to players will be limited. Locker rooms are going to be locked down in one of the first preventative measures taken by American sporting leagues.
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) March 9, 2020
“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice,” the leagues announced in a joint statement. “Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting,”