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Spanish soccer games to be played in empty stadiums

A man wears a face mask in central Madrid, Spain, on March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID (AP) -- All upcoming soccer games in Spain and some in Germany will be played in empty stadiums because of the coronavirus outbreak.

    The Spanish league said Tuesday that matches in the first and second divisions will be played without fans for at least two weeks. The announcement came after the government outlined a series of preventative measures being implemented to help contain the spread of the virus.

    The league said it will "follow its recommendations and/or decisions, prioritizing the health of fans, players, club employees, journalists, etc., due to the COVID-19 health crisis."

    The Spanish track federation also said it was told by the government of measures affecting all professional and non-professional sporting events in the country.

    Spain's health minister on Monday announced a sharp spike in coronavirus cases in and around Madrid, and said all schools in the region will close for two weeks from Wednesday. There were more than 1,200 confirmed cases in Spain on Monday, with 28 deaths and 74 people in intensive care.

    The move in Spain came a day after Italy said sports events in the country, including Serie A soccer games and preparatory events for the Tokyo Olympics, would be suspended until April 3.

    Champions League matches are also being affected in Spain, including next week's game between Barcelona and Napoli at the Camp Nou Stadium.

    In Germany, the Bundesliga will stage its first games without spectators this week. Borussia Monchengladbach said its match against Cologne on Wednesday would take place in an empty stadium. On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund will face Schalke in one of German soccer's fiercest local rivalries without fans.

    Dortmund will also play at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday without fans under measures previously imposed by French authorities.

    Sports around the world have been affected by the virus, including a major tennis tournament scheduled for this week in California and many Olympic qualifying events.

    For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

    The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the WHO, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks. Those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 63,000 so far have recovered.

    In Greece, the owner of the Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest soccer clubs said he has the virus.

    Greek shipowner and businessman Evangelos Marinakis said in a post on his verified Facebook page that "the recent virus has 'visited' me and I felt obliged to let the public know." His post says he feels well and is following doctors' instructions.

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