Italy has taken further steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus by cancelling all sporting events in the country until April 3, while new restrictions have been imposed in Spanish and French football.

The Italian government announced last week that all sporting events would be played without fans for a month but the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has now confirmed that all events have been cancelled completely.

The ban will affect the Serie A football league and Olympic preparatory events, among other sports. Serie A did hold a number of games in empty stadia last weekend and the latest ruling will have a big impact on the closing months of the season.

The ban does not cover competitions organised by international organisations such as UEFA, meaning that Italian teams will be free to play Champions League and Europa League matches at their own stadia, albeit behind closed doors.

“There’s no reason for the games to continue.” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “The fans will have to deal with it. We won’t even allow gyms to be used.”

This summer’s UEFA European Championships are also scheduled to get underway in Rome on June 12.

France had already issued an attendance cap of 1,000 on sporting events until April 15 and today the country’s Professional Football League (LFP) announced that all Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches will be held behind closed doors until then.

Spain’s LaLiga also announced earlier today that all of its matches would be held behind closed doors for at least the next two weeks.

The decision covers top-tier LaLiga matches and Segunda División fixtures. LaLiga said the decision has been taken in accordance with information from the High Council of sports (CSD).

The coronavirus has had a huge impact on sport around the world, with the Indian Wells tennis tournament in California among the high-profile events cancelled due to the outbreak. Formula One’s Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20 will also take place without fans in attendance, although this weekend’s season-opening race in Melbourne, Australia is set to go ahead as planned.

The UK is yet to impose such measures for sporting events. The government met yesterday (Monday) to discuss the outbreak and it was decided that there is “no rationale” to cancel sporting events in the country.

The Premier League and English Football League (EFL) has banned pre-match handshakes in light of the outbreak but at present there are no plans to postpone matches or hold them behind closed doors.

The popular Cheltenham Festival also gets underway today, with tens of thousands of fans set to attend. Organisers said yesterday that it is “full steam ahead” for the start of the festival.

Image: Jose Luis Hidalgo R.