DUBLIN: Ireland's minister for health said on Tuesday its Six Nations rugby fixture against Italy scheduled for March 7 in Dublin should not go ahead due to the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.
The minister said that the IRFU will be contacted regarding their advice. More than 280 cases have been diagnosed in Italy, making it the worst-hit country in Europe.
"The very clear view of the public health emergency team was that this game should not go ahead," Simon Harris told national broadcaster RTE.
In a statement, the chief medical officer in Ireland's Department of Health, Tony Holohan, said the recommendation to cancel the match was based on the rapidly evolving nature of the outbreak in northern Italy, and on the consequent risk of importation of cases into Ireland should the game go ahead.
Officials in Italy have been forced to cancel a number of sporting events, including two PRO14 rugby fixtures set to take place on Saturday.
After the first three rounds of the Six Nations, Ireland and England both have nine points, four behind leaders France.
There is a precedent for Six Nations' matches being postponed due to health concerns. In 2001, three Ireland matches - against Scotland, Wales and England - were delayed by almost six months to limit the spread of foot and mouth disease.
There have been no confirmed reports of coronavirus in Ireland.
(Reporting by Graham Fahy; editing by John Stonestreet and Ian Chadband)