After two people in Italy's northern Lombardy and Veneto regions died as a result of coronavirus infection, according to a report by USA Today, the country's Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced Saturday that all sports events in the two regions are postponed. The postponements included three matches in Serie A, Italy's top-flight football league — including a crucial match between third-place Inter Milan and Sampdoria.
Just one week after a crushing, 2-1 defeat to SS Lazio that allowed the Roman club to leapfrog into second place, Inter needed the three points against 16th-place club to keep pace with leaders Juventus. For much of the season, Inter Milan has either held the top spot or hovered directly below Juve in second.
But after the Turin side defeated SPAL 2-1 on Saturday, the defending champions now hold a six-point lead over Inter, who of course now hold a game in hand after the coronavirus-related postponement.
Fourth-place Atalanta — who play their home matches in Bergamo, Lombardy — saw their game against 12th-place Sassuolo called off due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Verona vs. Cagliari game was also suspended due to the spread of the disease, as the number of coronavirus cases in Italy — centered in the two northern regions — has reached 79 as of late Saturday, according to The Mirror newspaper.
The Ascoli vs. Cremonese Serie B game was also postponed, along with 42 amateur and youth league matches. Other sports also saw games called off, at least for the time being, including basketball, volleyball, and rugby games, according to The Mirror.
Coronavirus has claimed 2,360 lives worldwide, according to the USA Today account, with 77,900 cases reported — most of them in China, where the outbreak reportedly originated. But many of the cases in Italy are reported to be the result of secondary infections, according to the report. In other words, they are not the direct result of contact with a person who contracted the illness in China.
On Friday, the World Health Organization said that effort to contain the spread of the virus inside of China has now reached a crisis point.
"The window of opportunity is narrowing to contain the outbreak," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as quoted by USA Today.
"We still have a chance to contain it. But while doing that, we have to prepare at the same time for any eventualities, because this outbreak could go any direction."Other events in Milan are proceeding, however, though under restricted circumstances. The Giorgio Armani fashion company said that it would go ahead with its Milan Fashion Week runway show on Sunday, but without an audience, in order to prevent exposure to coronavirus, according to an Associated Press report.
No new dates for Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria or the other postponed Serie A matches have been announced.