The Italian National Olympic Committee announced on Monday that the country is canceling sporting events until April 3 due to coronavirus concerns.
“All team sporting competitions are suspended, at all levels, until April 3, 2020,” a statement from the committee reads.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte later confirmed the decision while announcing an expanded lockdown for the country hit hard by COVID-19.
“We also have more stringent measures in mind for sporting events,” Conte said. “Serie A and all sporting tournaments in general are suspended. All the fans must accept that.”
Serie A suspended
The initial plan was for sporting events to take place in empty stadiums through the same date until officials decided on Monday to call them off. The events affected include games in Serie A, the country’s top soccer league.
Serie A has not been canceled since World War II. It remains unclear how the league plans to resume play.
The Italian Olympic Committee doesn’t have jurisdiction over international events, meaning the fate of Italian teams in the Champions League and Europa League is unclear.
Serie A games took place over the weekend, including Sunday’s match between Inter Milan and Juventus that saw Juve prevail 2-0 in an empty Allianz Stadium.
In a Monday game between Sassuolo and Brescia that was played before the suspension took effect, Sassuolo’s Francesco Caputo delivered a message for fans watching on TV encouraging them to remain at home.
Italy on lockdown
Italy is Europe’s coronavirus epicenter, prompting a quarantine lockdown that initially affected around 16 million people in the northern part of the country including the cities of Milan, Venice and Turin.
Conte extended the lockdown for the entire country Monday afternoon in the announcement that also confirmed canceling sporting events.
As of Monday, Italy tallied 7,375 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 366 deaths from the illness caused by the coronavirus, the most of any country outside of Asia.
Tourists sites in the country are closed, weddings have been postponed and prisoners rioted amid restrictions over family visits. Pope Francis live-streamed Sunday Mass from the Vatican hotel.
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