The recent coronavirus outbreak means Italy’s trip to Dublin to face Ireland in the Six Nations will be postponed.
The game, due to be played on Saturday 7 March at the Aviva Stadium, would have seen around 5,000 fans make the journey from Italy.
However, given that a number of towns in northern Italy have been placed in lockdown because of the deadly disease, Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency team have concluded that letting the game go ahead would be too much of a health risk.
Ireland’s minister for health Simon Harris said: “We'll be publishing guidelines in relation to mass gatherings shortly. But we've obviously taken a decision in relation to the Ireland v Italy rugby game.
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“The very clear view of the Public Health Emergency Team was that the game should not go ahead, that it would constitute a significant risk because a very large number of people would be travelling from what is now an infected region.
“So now my department will be contacting the IRFU in relation to this. I know it will come as a great disappointment to many, but it is important to make decisions about public health above and beyond all other considerations.”
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Speaking after the National Public Health Emergency Team meeting, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health, said: “Ireland has been working on its preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus) since January.
“We remain in a containment phase and, to date, there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 here. However, clearly the international situation is evolving.
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“We will work with counterparts at the ECDC and WHO over the coming days to fully assess and incorporate the implications of these developments into our approach in Ireland.”
A statement from the Rugby Football Union claimed that Ireland’s decision “does not change the position at the moment” about England’s match in Italy on March 14.
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