Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria among four Serie A matches postponed for coronavirus fears

Inter Milan's clash with Sampdoria is among four Serie A matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto which have suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China.

On orders from the government, the other Italian league games called off were: Atalanta vs. Sassuolo, Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari and Torino vs. Parma.

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"The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,'' a letter from sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday read.

"Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

"Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I'm asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday."

Inter, who are atop the league, confirmed on Saturday night that their match at 17th-placed Sampdoria would not be played.

"The club can confirm that Inter vs. Sampdoria, which was due to take place at 20:45 CET on Sunday 23 February, has been postponed to a later date" the brief statement read.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday were going ahead as scheduled.

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy's business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn't clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

A Serie B match between Ascoli and Cremonese was called off on Saturday around one hour before the scheduled kickoff because of fears over the coronavirus.

The Italian news agency ANSA said that the match was postponed because the visiting side are from the Lombardy region in the north of Italy, where 30 cases have been reported so far.

Lega Serie B later confirmed the decision in a statement, saying: "Following an insurgence of coronavirus cases in the north of Italy, it has made the suspension of the match, projected for this afternoon, inevitable due to public health reasons."

A third-tier Serie C match between Piacenza and Sambenedettese also was called off, as were several dozen youth-team and amateur matches in the Lombardy region.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.