Dublin - Ireland's Six Nations rugby match with Italy in Dublin next month should be cancelled due to the coronavirus epidemic, the health minister said on Tuesday.
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The National Public Health Emergency Team, convened
to help coordinate Ireland's response to the outbreak, advised that the
upcoming match on March 7 "not to go ahead on public health grounds" as
Italy became the latest country to be badly hit by the virus.
cancellation of mass gatherings in this phase is justified in
exceptional circumstances," said Tony Holohan, the chief medical
"Today's recommendation to cancel the Ireland v Italy
rugby match is based on the rapidly evolving nature of the outbreak in
northern Italy, and the consequent risk of importation of cases into
Ireland were the match to go ahead," he added.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said he welcomed the recommendation.
recommendations reflect the continuous assessment and adaptation
capability of Ireland's response... which will be ongoing as the
situation unfolds," he said.
Health chiefs also called for an
"increase in the level of public awareness campaigns at ports, airports,
schools and public offices, to commence immediately".
Rugby Football Union responded cautiously to Harris' call by saying
later Tuesday it was seeking an "urgent meeting" with the minister as to
"the specific reasoning" behind pleas for the Italy match to be
An IRFU statement added: "Until such time as the IRFU
has had contact with the Minister (Harris) and gets an understanding of
the government's strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the
cancellation of mass gatherings, it is not in a position to comment
Meanwhile Six Nations organisers indicated they would proceed as planned until the IRFU had met with the Irish government.
IRFU has sought an urgent meeting with the Irish Government to discuss
the matter further and we will remain in close contact with them
regarding the outcome of those discussions," they said in a statement.
are currently third in the championship, having lost to second-placed
England on Sunday, with France, who have already played Italy, leading
Ireland's match with Italy, who are bottom, is set to be
the penultimate fixture for both teams, while England's trip to Rome on
March 14 has also been thrown into doubt.
The cancellation of the
games would throw the competition into turmoil, although the 2001
competition was similarly affected by a foot-and-mouth outbreak in
Britain, with the fixtures being completed months later.