The European Football Championship will kick off in Rome as planned, Uefa has insisted, despite the growing number of coronavirus cases in Italy.
In new developments an unnamed professional footballer in the Italian third tier has tested positive for Covid-19 while the European forum of the International Boxing Association, which was due to be held in Assisi this weekend, has been cancelled. It has also been announced that an emergency meeting will be held in Paris next week to discuss the postponed Six Nations fixture between Ireland and Italy.
Meanwhile, the final two stages of the United Arab Emirates Tour have been cancelled amid fears of a further outbreak of coronavirus, according to teams at the race. Chris Froome, who is making his comeback from career-threatening crash last year, Mark Cavendish and Adam Yates are among the riders who will now be tested for the virus.
“It’s a shame that the UAE Tour has been cancelled but public health must come first,” Froome wrote on Twitter. “We are all awaiting testing and will remain at the hotel until further notice. I hope those affected make a speedy recovery and there aren’t any further cases.”
The summer’s big football tournament is not under threat, however, according to Uefa. “Euro 2020 will kick off on 12 June 2020 in Rome,” a spokesperson for the organisation said. “Uefa is in touch with the relevant international and local authorities regarding the coronavirus and its development. For the moment there is no need to change anything in the planned timetable. The issue will be kept under constant scrutiny.”
Uefa’s response reflects the International Olympic Committee’s ‘business as usual’ approach towards planning for July’s Games in Tokyo. But with the Euros set to be played in 12 different European countries, the challenges facing the tournament are different, according to Professor Christopher Dye, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford.
“It is a disadvantage that the Euros are to be held on a number of different sites,” said Dye, who worked with the IOC in responding to an outbreak of the Zika virus before the 2016 Games in Rio. “The idea of controlling spread close to venues would essentially be an impossibility. The risk assessment that will be taken when we reach June is how widely spread the virus has become, how many contracted it, how many are getting seriously ill and how many infected in congregant settings like football stadiums.
“What’s happening in Italy at the moment will be one factor that will be taken into account. But when it comes to April and May, what happened in Italy in February will look like the relatively distant past.”
Tuscan regional authorities confirmed on Thursday that a footballer for the Serie C side US Pianese ASD had contracted the coronavirus. The player, whose identity is undisclosed, had been due to appear in a match against Juventus’ under-23 side last Saturday, only to put himself into “voluntary quarantine” after displaying symptoms of the disease.
Meanwhile a World Rugby summit meeting on Monday will provide the opportunity to find a solution to the problem of the postponed Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy. Representatives from the six competing unions have agreed to discuss rescheduling and also consider the risks facing the remainder of the tournament. There is no guarantee that a final date will be settled upon on Monday, but the respective unions also say there will be no further postponements before the meeting is held.
Elsewhere the Formula One chief executive, Chase Carey, has said it remains “all systems go” for the Vietnam Grand Prix, due to be held in Hanoi at the beginning of April, while the England and Wales Cricket Board also said there was no current threat to the tour of Sri Lanka in March.