The conclusion of the European Champions Cup and the Guinness PRO14 are both now up in the air after Irish premier Leo Varadkar banned all gatherings of over 500 people amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus for the next two weeks.

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Ireland is on lockdown for a fortnight in response to Covid-19. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close until March 29 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which is now regarded as a global pandemic.

All indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events involving more than 500 people should be cancelled.

The coronavirus crackdown will almost certainly see the cancellation of Connacht versus Scarlets and Ulster versus Dragons in the PRO14 on March 20th.  Last week the PRO14 said: “detailed scenario-planning has been on-going and it is paramount that the well-being and health of teams, their supporters, staff and match officials are not compromised”.

In the European Champions Cup, Leinster at set to take on Saracens for April 4th in the Aviva Stadium, and although that’s currently outside of the time period specified, the news has cast major doubt on that fixture which could see 40,000 plus fans attend Irish rugby’s national HQ.

On Monday, European Professional Club Rugby issued a statement ahead of April’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

The body said: “It is currently envisaged that the Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final matches will go ahead as scheduled on the weekend of 3/4/5 April,” an EPCR statement read.

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“EPCR intends to complete all eight fixtures and will continue to monitor developments while liaising with the relevant league and union bodies, as well as governments and local authorities.

“EPCR is fully supportive of any preventative measures that might be required in the interests of overall public health in relation to Covid-19 and will respect instructions provided by authorities.”

Museums, galleries and other tourist destinations in Ireland will also close as a result of the action.

Mr Varadkar said: “I know that some of this is coming as a real shock and it is going to involve big changes in the way we live our lives.

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“I know that I am asking people to make enormous sacrifices. We’re doing it for each other.”

The total number of Covid-19 cases in the Republic stands at 43 and there has been one death.

In contrast, UK cases stand at 460 and there have been eight deaths in British hospitals.

– additional reporting PA

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