The Olympics, the Six Nations and Stormzy’s world tour are among events under threat amid health and travel concerns as the authorities attempt to combat the spread of coronavirus.
As the number of cases worldwide continues to climb, fears over the virus have already prompted the mass cancellation of festivals and sporting events across Asia, and events in Europe are also being called into question.
A senior member of the International Olympic Committee has said that cancellation of the Tokyo 2020 Games would only be likely if the disease proved too dangerous for the event – scheduled to begin on 24 July – to go ahead.
On Wednesday the Irish Rugby Football Union said that both men’s and women’s matches between Ireland and Italy would be postponed on the advice of the government and public health advisers. Last weekend Italy’s women’s team had their match with Scotland cancelled. Earlier Ireland’s chief medical officer said on Wednesday that the recommendation to cancel the match was “the only responsible decision that could have been made”.
A number of touring artists have cancelled dates in affected places altogether, including Stormzy who has had to postpone the entire Asian leg of his forthcoming global tour and Mabel, who has cancelled all of her performance dates in Italy.
A Public Health England spokesperson said that people should “not feel obliged to avoid others, even in large gatherings, but should maintain good personal, hand and respiratory hygiene to avoid the spread of infections that are common at this time of year, such as flu.”
The statement continued: “At the moment, we are not advising changing plans around sporting events. However, this is an evolving situation and we regularly review our advice.”
More details on cancellations, possible changes and events currently going ahead as planned:
The Olympic Games
IOC member Dick Pound has told Associated Press that preparations for Tokyo 2020 are “business as usual” and any decision on whether or not the Games go ahead does not need to be taken until May. But he raised the prospect of a cancellation if the circumstances demanded it nearer the time. “In and around that time [late May],folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’” he said. “A lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels.” If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, rather than another country taking over, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation”, he said.
Training for 80,000 Olympic volunteers, which was due to begin on 22 February, has been delayed for at least two months.
Four Serie A games were postponed in Italy at the weekend, and are set to be played behind closed doors, including Inter v Sampdoria. Antonio Conte's side will also play their Europa League tie against Ludogorets at an empty San Siro on Thursday.
As it stands, Lyon's Champions League first-leg tie with Juventus in France on Wednesday is expected to go ahead, with fans able to attend.
Domestic leagues in China, Japan and South Korea are suspended, with AFC Champions League and World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors.
Ireland's Six Nations game with Italy in Dublin on 7 March, and England's trip to Rome on 14 March, are both in doubt. Italy's Women's Six Nations match against Scotland on Sunday was postponed.
In the Pro14, Ospreys' trip to face Zebre in Parma, and Ulster's visit to Benetton Treviso have been called off.
The Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled to take place in Shanghai in mid-April, has been postponed and is likely to be replaced by a race in another country. There are also fears over the Vietnam GP early that month, while Ferrari have restricted access to the team HQ in Italy.
Athletics: The world indoor athletics championships, set to take place in Nanjing in March, will now be held in the Chinese city in 2021.
Golf: PGA, LPGA and European Tour events in China, Thailand and Singapore have been postponed.
Olympics: The 2020 Games in Tokyo is still scheduled to go ahead as planned, from 24 July to 9 August.
Tennis: April's WTA Xi'an Open has been cancelled. China have forfeited their Davis Cup tie with Romania as they are unable to travel.
• Updated 25 February
Ireland’s game against Italy in Dublin on 7 March has now been postponed following an intervention from the country’s health minister. Simon Harris said he believed the fixture should be postponed following the spread of coronavirus to countries outside China, including Italy. “The clear view of the public health emergency team was that this game would constitute a significant risk because a very large number of people will be travelling from what is now an affected region,” he said. The IRFU said it was “perfectly happy to comply with this instruction” and said that it now had “a lot of work to do” to rearrange the fixture. Now attention will turn to whether Italian fans with tickets to Dublin will still travel or cancel their visits.
England v Italy
The Football Association has begun the process of discussing how it reacts to coronavirus and, specifically, if England’s friendly with Italy at Wembley on 27 March can go ahead given the spread of the virus there, which has already led to four Serie A fixtures being postponed and Internazionale’s home Europa League tie with Ludogorets on Thursday becoming a behind-closed-doors fixture. Other matters – including England’s participation at Euro 2020 – are also being discussed by the FA who for now are continuing to take government advice in regards to how to react to the coronavirus.
Premier League clubs are following NHS guidelines regarding safeguarding against the coronavirus as it continues to spread globally. The governing body is also sharing recommendations to its clubs received from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure which was agreed in conjunction with the EFL chief medical officer, while at their respective stadiums advice is being displayed for staff and fans which is to self-isolate if symptoms of the virus are experienced. The Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England are not, though, currently issuing any further stipulations.
As of Wednesday morning the only decision taken has been to establish a coronavirus steering group including representatives of the British Horseracing Authority, racecourses and horsemen. The sport is said to be on a “watching and monitoring” brief and prepared to take its cue from the government if the situation in Britain should deteriorate.
World Athletics Indoor Championships
Originally scheduled for Nanjing from 13-15 March, the championships have now been postponed until next year.
The Chinese Grand Prix, originally set for 19 April, has been postponed by FIA and Formula One, who will weigh potential alternative dates later this year. The opening three races of the Formula One season – in Australian, Bahrain and Vietnam – are coming under increasing threat of cancellation.
British grime star Stormzy is undertaking his biggest tour yet in 2020, a global jaunt across five continents – but the Asian leg has been postponed, with Stormzy apologising for the decision: “Due to the ongoing health and travel concerns surrounding the coronavirus, I’m regrettably having to reschedule.” Pop star Mabel, who won a Brit award for British solo female artist last week, has cancelled the Italian leg of her tour and said she was “hoping to reschedule soon”. And US alt-rock band the Pixies have cancelled concerts due to begin this week in China and Japan. Other alternative music events to be cancelled include a Stereolab tour of China in mid-March, and a Hong Kong spinoff of Barcelona electronic music festival Sonar, originally scheduled for 28 March.
South by Southwest, the major cultural festival held each year in Austin, Texas featuring music, film, comedy, technology and more, has said it is “proceeding as planned” but “where travel has been impacted, especially in the case of China, we are seeing a handful of cancellations”. It is due to run 13-22 March.
The worlds of art and architecture are bracing itself to do without itheir regular dose of Aperol Spritz this spring, with growing speculation that the Venice Biennale could be postponed. The organisation has cancelled next week’s press conference in London, following the announcement that the Milan Furniture Fair – the world’s largest design trade show – has been postponed from April until June.
Cannes, Venice and other film festivals
The film industry has been hit hard: Chinese cinemas were quickly shut as a preventative measure, gutting the valuable Chinese new year box office, and forcing the cancellation of high-profile events such as the Chinese premiere of the new Bond film, No Time to Die, due to take place in April. The spread of the virus will also adversely impact high-profile international film festivals, such as Cannes (in May) and Venice (in September): not only will the increasingly deep-pocketed representatives of the Chinese industry be unable to travel, but the increasing likelihood of local controls will put an end to the kind of high-profile gala screenings, big money deals, and PR campaigns that are the festivals’ bread and butter.