All sporting events in Italy — including Serie A football matches — will take place without fans present for at least the next month due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, the Italian government announced Wednesday.
That will likely see games played in the Italian football league this weekend after the calendar was pushed back a week. Italy is the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak as more than 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have been infected with COVID-19.
The Italian government issued a new decree on Wednesday evening, with measures it hopes will help contain the spread of the virus. All sporting events throughout the country must take place behind closed doors until April 3.
Schools and universities have been ordered to close until March 15.
Premier Giuseppe Conte also posted a five-minute video on his Facebook page, reassuring people and saying that the decree was a way of assuring “responsible behavior.”
He said banning crowds at sporting events would help “prevent further opportunities of infection.”
Key games during the period includes Juventus’ Champions League game against Lyon. The second leg of the round-of-16 match is scheduled for March 17 in Turin.
Inter Milan and Roma also have Europa League games scheduled, against Getafe and Sevilla, respectively. Inter played Ludogorets inside an empty stadium last week in the previous Europa League round.
That also calls into question Italy’s Six Nations rugby match against England in Rome on March 14. That match will either have to go ahead behind closed doors or be postponed. Italy’s match against Ireland, which was scheduled for Saturday, had already been postponed.
The governing body for Serie A has yet to release a revised schedule, but reports say the six league matches that were postponed last week will now be played this weekend.
That includes one of the biggest matches of the season — the Juventus-Inter Milan game. Four Serie A matches went ahead last weekend with fans present as they were taking place in areas that had not been affected by measures to control the outbreak.
The second leg of Juventus’ Coppa Italia match against AC Milan, which was scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed, as was the other semifinal second leg between Napoli and Inter.
A decree on Sunday extended the suspension of all sporting events in Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna until March 8. The region of Lombardy is the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak and there are further clusters in the other two northern regions.
Meanwhile in France, Ligue 1 has announced there will be no handshakes between players and officials at upcoming matches as a precautionary measure against the virus spreading in the country.
The French league said in a statement Wednesday that prematch protocol has been modified to help prevent the “spread of the coronavirus.”
Players and the match referee will hold young mascots by the shoulder, and not by the hand as usually happens, when the teams enter the field.
Players from each side will line up without their traditional pre-match handshakes, while handshakes between the coaches and match officials are also scrapped.
The total number of cases in France reached 257 by Wednesday, with four deaths, the health ministry said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.