Ireland’s Six Nations game against Italy in Dublin on March 7 should be postponed because of the coronavirus situation, says Irish Health Minister Simon Harris.
Seven people have died in Italy and 229 tested positive for the virus, while 11 towns in the north are in lockdown.
“This game should not go ahead,” Harris told Irish broadcaster RTE.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said it was seeking an “urgent meeting” with Harris after his comments.
Earlier, Six Nations organisers said they were “monitoring very closely” the coronavirus situation.
This weekend five Serie A matches will be played behind closed doors – including Juventus’ match at home to Inter Milan – because of the outbreak.
Meanwhile, Formula 1 team Ferrari says it has taken measures to limit the impact of the outbreak.
Italy’s Six Nations matches under threat
Harris said his department will now be contacting the IRFU.
“We’ve taken a decision in relation to the Ireland-Italy rugby game which was due to be held in Dublin on 7 March,” the minister said.
“The very clear view of the Public Health Emergency team is that this game should not go ahead, that it would constitute a significant risk because a very large number of people would be travelling from what is now an affected region.
“I know it will come as a great disappointment to many but it is important we make decisions in relation to public health above and beyond all other considerations.”
Italy’s men’s and women’s teams are due play in Ireland in two weeks before hosting England in the final round.
Scotland women’s match in Italy on Sunday was called off and is yet to be rearranged.
In a statement, the IRFU said: “The IRFU is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Harris as to the specific reasoning behind calling for the cancellation of the Ireland v Italy Six Nations fixture in the context of the government’s overall travel policy to and from Italy and other affected countries.
“Until such time as the IRFU has had contact with the minister and gets an understanding of the government’s strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the cancellation of mass gatherings, it is not in a position to comment further.”
A spokesperson for the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) said that if government advice changes it would consider moving the women’s team’s next training camp, which is scheduled to take place in Parma, just south of the at-risk Lombardy and Veneto regions.
“Six Nations is monitoring this situation very closely and is in regular contact with the FIR and all other unions and federations as well as the relevant local authorities and health organisations,” a statement from the organisers said.
Serie A takes action
The Serie A schedule this weekend has been disrupted because of coronavirus.
Matches at Udinese, AC Milan, Parma and Sassuolo will take place without fans.
Games at Lazio, Napoli, Lecce and Cagliari will go ahead with supporters as normal, but Sampdoria’s match on Monday is yet to be decided upon.
Inter’s Europa League last-32 home match against Ludogorets on Thursday will also be played behind closed doors because of fears about the possible spread of the virus.
Inter were one of four Serie A clubs to postpone their games last weekend.
Serie A fixtures to be played behind closed doors: Juventus v Inter (Sun, 19:45 GMT); Udinese v Fiorentina (Sat, 17:00 GMT); AC Milan v Genoa (Sun, 11:30 GMT); Parma v Spal (Sun, 14:00 GMT); Sassuolo v Brescia (Sun, 14:00 GMT)
Serie A matches to be played with fans: Lazio v Bologna (Sat, 14:00 GMT); Napoli v Torino (Sat, 19:45 GMT); Lecce v Atalanta (Sun, 14:00 GMT); Cagliari v Roma (Sun, 17:00 GMT)
Still to be decided: Sampdoria v Hellas Verona (Mon, 19:45 GMT)
Ferrari takes measures
Ferrari has closed its museums in Maranello and Modena, while all external visits and all non-critical business travel have been stopped.
But the situation is so far not directly affecting the Ferrari race team’s preparations for the new Formula 1 season.
Ferrari personnel flew to Spain on a chartered jet on Tuesday in preparation for the final pre-season test, which starts in Barcelona on Wednesday.
“The situation is being monitored closely. New measures will be promptly implemented and communicated should they become necessary,” the team said.
The Chinese Grand Prix, which had been scheduled for 17 April, has already been postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak while there are questions surrounding other early-season races.
A spokesman for F1 said the sport will continue to monitor the global situation but that there were no plans “at the moment” to postpone further races.
The Vietnam International Challenge badminton event, an Olympic qualifier, was shifted from late March to early June, the Badminton World Federation said on Tuesday. That event was due to take place a week before the Vietnam Grand Prix.
Concerns about the spread of the virus in the Middle East have heightened following an outbreak in Iran, which has officially reported 95 cases.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport