The Italians were scheduled to play at Ireland on March 7, part of the annual rugby competition that also includes England, France, Scotland and Wales. A women’s game the following day was also postponed.
On another day of sports events and meetings worldwide being affected by the virus outbreak, the governing body of Asian soccer postponed future meetings in Bahrain and Malaysia, and women’s basketball games in Slovenia were canceled after first being moved from northern Italy.
The decision in Ireland came from Health Minister Simon Harris, who met with rugby officials on Wednesday.
“At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the governments’ need to protect public health in relation to the coronavirus,” the Irish Rugby Football Union said in a statement. “We were then advised, formally, that the National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of Public Health. The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.”
Rugby officials plan talks about when the matches can be rescheduled.
Italy has the highest number of cases of the virus in Europe, with more than 300 people diagnosed with infection and 11 deaths linked to the disease.
“I know (it will) cause a great disappointment to many, but it is important to make decisions in relation to public health above and beyond all other considerations,″ Harris told broadcaster RTE before the decision to postpone was made.
The Asian Football Confederation was due to hold a March 14 executive committee meeting in Bahrain and an April 16 assembly of 47 member federations in Kuala Lumpur. Both countries have reported COVID-19 cases this week.
In the women’s basketball EuroLeague, Italian clubs were set to host games in Ljubljana, Slovenia, this week until opponents in Hungary and Latvia refused to travel citing concerns about the virus spreading in Italy.
Other events taking place in northern Italy are going ahead with caution.
The International Ski Federation said women’s Alpine skiing World Cup races will go ahead this weekend at La Thuile with fewer spectators. The races are a homecoming for locally-born Federica Brignone, who now leads the World Cup standings.
The International Cycling Union said plans for the one-day classic Milan-San Remo race on March 21 are not affected, though “it is not currently possible to predict in the medium term whether competitions in this country will be maintained or canceled.”