Breaking news out of Italy tonight, where the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continues to grow at a seemingly exponential rate.
As announced by Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte (no relation to former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte), the entire country has been placed on lockdown, all public gatherings have been banned, and travel is now limited to essential work or family reasons only.
*BREAKING: Italy's PM Conte just put ALL of ITALY UNDER the same LOCKDOWN rules as the north. He calls it the "I STAY HOME" decree. People can only move around for work reasons (transport of essential goods), for other pressing needs, or for health reasons. Effective tomoro a.m.— Rachel Donadio (@RachelDonadio) March 9, 2020
And that includes suspending play in Serie A and Serie B for at least the next month, until April 3.
“There is no more time, the numbers tell us there is a significant increase in the contagion, in intensive care and the deaths. Our habits have to change, we must sacrifice something for the good of all of Italy. This is why we will adopt even more stringent measures.
“I will sign the new decree, which can be summed up with the phrase ‘I am staying at home.’ There are no more red zones, there is just an Italy that is protected.
“We must avoid travel unless for proven work reasons, health reasons or other necessities. We ban large public gatherings.
“We also have more stringent measures in mind for sporting events. Serie A and all sporting tournaments in general are suspended. All the fans must accept that. There is no reason for these competitions to continue.”
-Guiseppe Conte; source: Football Italia
It’s unclear what will happen to this year’s Scudetto (cancel season; no title?) or to the Italian teams left in UEFA competitions this year or qualifying for next year, or how this will impact Euro 2020, which was set to begin in Rome in early June. All that is very much still fluid at this time.
With the virus sure to continue spreading across Europe, similar measures could follow in other countries as well. For now, the Premier League is still in just contingency planning, with the probability of having to stage games behind closer doors very much on the table and expected, even.
As always, personal health comes above all other considerations. Wash your hands, stop touching your face, and exercise all reasonable precautions. Take care of yourselves.