ROME, Italy, Feb 23 – The surge in the number of new coronavirus cases in Italy has hit sporting events as four Serie A football matches were postponed on Sunday, with Inter Milan’s Europa League game next week also in doubt.
The match between Torino and Parma in the northern city of Turin was called off Sunday following earlier postponements of top-flight games between title-chasing Inter against Sampdoria, Atalanta versus Sassuolo and Hellas Verona against Cagliari.
Strong measures are being taken in Italy with over 132 confirmed cases in an outbreak that has claimed two lives in the country.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had announced late on Saturday evening that all sporting events in two northern regions would be suspended on Sunday.
“Now more than ever we have a duty to be prudent and responsible,” Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora said on Facebook.
“It is necessary to act seriously and determinedly, while maintaining calm and not taking any unnecessary risks.
“For this reason, we have suspended sports competitions in areas where there may be even the possibility of spreading the virus.”
Inter’s home Europa League match scheduled for Thursday against Bulgarian club Ludogorets is now also in doubt.
Chinese-owned Inter have a congested sporting calendar between league matches, Italian Cup and Europa League, giving football chiefs a scheduling headache as the end of the season cannot exceed May 24 because of the start of Euro 2020.
According to media reports in Italy, Inter’s European game could not be played behind closed doors or at a neutral venue.
AC Milan also announced on Sunday the postponement of their women’s team’s match against Fiorentina, while five Serie C games programmed for next Wednesday have been postponed.
Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina has set up a medical taskforce to analyse the coronavirus emergency situation, with a meeting scheduled for Monday.
The women’s Six Nations clash between Italy and Scotland was also delayed.
The match had been scheduled to take place in Legnano, north of Milan in the Lombardy region, which has been the epicentre of the outbreak of COVID-19, as the disease is known, in Italy.
Saturday saw more than 40 amateur and youth matches in the regions called off because of virus fears.
The Serie B game between Ascoli and Cremonese was also postponed.
In tennis, the final of the second-tier Challenger event in Bergamo between Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko and France’s Enzo Couacaud scheduled for Sunday has also been postponed, along with volleyball, golf, basketball and swimming competitions.
The first meeting of the board of directors of the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics, scheduled for Monday in Milan, will now take place using video.