The death toll from coronavirus infections in Italy topped 100, with total cases in the country topping 3,000, according to a New York Times report. Now, another major match in the Coppa Italia competition has been called off due to fears of the outbreak. At the same time, Italy's sports ministry is set to propose holding all major sporting events in closed-door facilities for at least one more month.
On Tuesday, Italy's Lega Serie A, which operates the Coppa Italia tournament, announced that the first semifinal second-leg match pitting Juventus against AC Milan would be canceled, with no makeup date announced. That game was scheduled for Wednesday. Now, Thursday's second semifinal match, with SSC Napoli hosting Inter Milan, has also been ditched.
The match scheduled for Stadio Sao Paolo in Naples was called off by regional authorities rather than by Serie A officials. In fact, Serie A now plans to suspend matches in the top flight division until March 8, according to a report by The Guardian, at least in the northern regions most directly affected by the viral outbreak.
Lombardy, the hardest hit area, is where the city of Milan is located — home to both Inter Milan and AC Milan as well as Atalanta, which plays in nearby Bergamo.
Atalanta vs. Lazio, Bologna vs. Juventus, Inter Milan vs. Sassuolo, and Hellas Verona v Napoli are all set to be canceled in the upcoming weekend's slate of matches, according to the Guardian report.
According to BeIn Sports reporter Tancredi Palmeri, writing via Twitter, the country's sports ministry plans to order all matches and major sports events played without fans present for at least the next month to avoid crowd situations in which the virus could more easily spread.
Italy has also closed schools until March 15, as Italian officials Wednesday announced that the number of confirmed cases in the country had reached 3,089 — with 107 deaths, a fatality rate of about 3.5 percent, according to the New York Times report. The total number of cases rose by more than 400 in 24 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday, and the death toll jumped by 25.
Only China and South Korea have been hit harder by the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, which is believed to have originated in China's Wuhan province. But in Europe, France had been the second-worst affected country, with 285 cases, while Germany had reported 240 diagnosed coronavirus cases.
Inter Milan has already absorbed two postponements in Serie A play, including the crucial Derby D'Italia against archrivals Juventus on March 1.