SwimSwam Italia’s Giusy Cisale contributed to this report.
The Italian Swimming Federation (Federnuoto) has suspended all activity in the Lombardy region of northern Italy after a deadly outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 there. The suspension of activity coincides with a quarantine on the region by the Italian government, with schools, public buildings, restaurants, and cafes all being closed after positive tests for the virus in the area began multiplying at a rapid rate earlier this week.
There have so far been 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 between Lombardy and neighboring Veneto regions near Milan, and on Saturday morning the first death in Italy caused by the virus occurred when a 78-year old man died at a hospital in Padua. A second person, a female, has also died in Lombardy on Saturday.
Lombardy is the core of the country’s financial and industrial sectors.
On Friday, Federnuoto issued a press release ordering that all athletes, technicians, managers, and race officials who reside in quarantined communities to suspend their swimming activities.
As a precaution and on the indications of the health authorities, Federnuoto , in agreement with the Lombardy Regional Committee, suspends all the races scheduled in the ten isolated Municipalities of the Lodi area indicated by the Lombardy Region.
At present, the isolated municipalities include:
- Castiglione d’Adda
- Terranova dei Passerini
- San Fiorano
The Lombardy regional aquatics committee has also postponed all water polo matches scheduled for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday this weekend, as well as all training facilities and competitive events scheduled over the weekend.
Next weekend’s City of Milan Trophy, hosted less than 50km from the Italian center of the outbreak in Lodi, is preparing with preparations as normal, according to organizers.
COVID-19, which was first identified in China in late December, has now infected almost 78,000 globally according to coronatracker.com. There have been 2,361 confirmed deaths around the world, 2,345 of which have occurred in China. In an effort to stop the disease, multiple countries have instituted travel restrictions and quarantines, including schools closing in Iran where 5 have died, and most major western airlines cancelling flights to and from China. In China, the most severe restrictions are in place, preventing many citizens from leaving their homes, especially after visiting the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei Province.
The Italian outbreak is believed to have begun with a 38-year-old man in the town of Lodi, who became sick after meeting with a friend who had recently visited China. Italy was the first Eurozone country to suspend all direct flights to China, after 2 Chinese tourists from Wuhan, Hubei tested positive in Rome in late January.
While organizers of the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and the International Olympic Committee, have both said that they have no plans to cancel or reschedule the Olympic Games, Shaun Bailey, a British candidate for mayor of London, Tweeted out that London was ready and willing to host the Olympic Games this summer if needed. Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike expressed anger at the comments of Bailey, saying “It is inappropriate to talk about the Coronavirus during an election campaign, now that it has attracted global interest.”
In Asia, the outbreak has led to the cancellation of many large-scale sporting events, including several in aquatics. A stop of the Para Swimming World Series scheduled for early May has been cancelled, as has the Beijing stop of the FINA Diving World Series. Chinese divers have been noticeably absent form international competition early this year, and China has postponed its upcoming Olympic Trials in swimming over coronavirus fears as well.