All sport in Italy is to be suspended for the next month as the Italian authorities step up measures to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
The Italian national Olympic committee confirmed the news on Monday, which includes all matches in Serie A, Italy’s highest football division, but does not cover Italian clubs or national teams competing in international competitions such as the Champions League.
The committee, which oversees all sporting events in the country, said in a statement that the suspension will last until April 3 and that it would request a government decree to impose its decision.
Italy now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases, behind China and South Korea, and action has been taken with all sport being suspended until April 3.
In Italy, about 16 million people have been put under a widespread lockdown in the northern part of the country.
Italy’s top soccer division had resumed on Sunday with five games played in empty stadiums. Twelve rounds remain, with eight-time defending champions Juventus holding a one-point lead over Lazio.
Serie A has not been canceled since World War II.
The announcement from the Italian Olympic Committee, which is known as CONI, came minutes before Sassuolo were to host Brescia in a match. The match began as scheduled.
CONI said its decision does not include international competition ‘for clubs or national teams,’ since it does not govern those. Juventus, Napoli and Atalanta are each competing in the Champions League, while Inter Milan and Roma are still in the Europa League.
‘Health protection is the top priority for everyone,’ read a statement from the committee.
The government had already ordered that all sporting events, including matches in Serie A, to be played behind closed doors to avoid crowds of people that could boost the contagion.
The country has been rocked by the spread of the disease and reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases since its outbreak began with a total of 7,375, including 366 deaths.
Last weekend’s Serie A games had been played behind closed doors in a bid to stop mass public gatherings at the country battles to contain the virus that developed from Wuhan.
Vincenzo Spadafora, Italy’s sport minister, said he supported a call from Italian football players’ association president Damiano Tommasi to avoid putting players at risk amid the virus outbreak.