The Italian government has now extended the coronavirus lockdown from the northern regions to cover the entire country, throwing up fresh concerns over the fate of the Giro d’Italia.
Italian prime minister Guiseppe Conte announced the drastic measures on Monday night (March 9), as the worst affected country in Europe tries to contain the spread of Covid-19.
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Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo have already been cancelled over public health concerns from the virus, with the doubts being cast over the first Grand Tour of the year, the Giro d’Italia in May.
Across the border in France, Paris-Nice is currently underway, but the race organiser ASO has been forced to ban the public from stage finishes because of rules imposed by the French government.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy is now at 9,000, with 400 fatalities, while globally the virus has infected 113,000 people and caused 4,000 deaths.
Italian PM Conte said: “The figures show we are experiencing a serious increase in infections, an increase in people hospitalised in intensive care – and an increase, unfortunately, in deaths.
“We need to change our lifestyle. We need to change it now. That’s why I have decided to adopt these hard measures.
Initially, strict lockdown measures had been imposed on Milan and 14 other areas in the affected northern regions, with residents being warned not to travel, public gatherings being forbidden, venues being closed, and schools and universities being shut.
These rules now apply to all of Italy’s 60million people and are not due to be lifted until April 3.
According to Italian cycling website BiciTV, the rules mean that even recreational cycling outdoors is forbidden.
The 2020 Giro d’Italia is set to start in Hungary on May 9, with the opening three stages in central Europe before the race transfers to the southern Italian island of Sicily.
After two stages on Sicily, the race then travels north along the Adriatic coast with the closing stages spread across the north of the country before the finish in Milan.
Race director Mauro Vegni told Belgian broadcaster Sporza said: “I don’t even want to think about the possibility that the Giro could be cancelled.
“Cancelling the race would create a very complicated situation, not only for cycling and for sport in general, but also for all of Italy.”
On the cancellation of the Italian spring races, Vegni said: “In the current situation, there was no question of spring races in Italy.
“We are currently wondering if it will be possible to transfer them to another date.”