I don’t know about you, but the thought of a coronavirus outbreak here in Scotland gives me the heebie-jeebies. So far it is killing between 1% and 2% of those who contract it, but that figure rises to 6-7% for diabetics like myself, so when – not if - it arrives here I’ll be in lockdown and the local bistro’s profits will suffer accordingly.

The experts that run these things globally want us to call it Covid19, so as not to upset the poor people of Wuhan. Frankly I think they have much, much worse things to worry about than their city’s reputation, and we should keep the reference to Wuhan if only to embarrass the Chinese authorities into doing something about the live animal markets where the virus originated and where more will start in the future if that mediaeval trade continues.

What has stunned me is the lacklustre approach to the outbreak in Italy by the authorities in the Italian government, the medical profession here, and, yes, the rugby chiefs in the Six Nations.

It is only now that the virus has spread to southern Italy that the Italian Government has realised that it has a potential national calamity on its hands – did they not watch the scenes from China?


When the Italian Government finally got the message it reacted quickly and closed down all sporting fixtures in the Veneto and Lombardy areas at the weekend, forcing the cancellation of Sunday’s match in Legnano between the women's teams of Italy and Scotland. The SRU reacted properly and the women’s team and the officials with them were flown home immediately, but that only has me asking more questions.

The swift-spreading nature of Wuhan virus is such that it takes just one individual to contract it and then it leaps from city to city, from region to region and country to country. Since even the top experts admit they don’t know how exactly it is transmitted, we are advised that it is similar to the way influenza spreads, and we know what Spanish Flu did to the world after the Great War. I remind you, there is no vaccine yet for the current virus.

Perhaps I have missed it but where is the advice from the SRU and Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to those fans who were following the Scottish women’s team? How many of the fans following the men’s team in Rome passed through the Veneto and Lombardy? How many potentially infectious Italians from the northern regions were in Rome and mixing with the Scots at the weekend?


There is a specific cohort of Scottish people, i.e. the followers of the national teams, who were in Italy last week. Should there not be advice specifically for them?

Now that Italy is known to have been the main European country where the virus incubated – every victim this week may have had the virus for up to 14 days - the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and the SRU should join forces and track down every fan who was in Italy at the weekend and ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days, just as the NHS in England has suggested yesterday with all travellers returning from northern Italy – defined as north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini – asked to self-isolate if they feel symptoms of Covid-19, including fever or shortness of breath.

The number of lockdown areas in Italy will continue to increase and I won’t be surprised if Rome is soon on the list. Shouldn’t we be acting now to make people who have been Italy for the rugby at least aware of the symptoms?

The Six Nations must react to this crisis – and it is a crisis and maybe even a panic in the making, for sure. Indeed all sports governing bodies must take action, just as the Italian football authorities have already done by playing games behind closed doors.


A Six Nations spokesman said yesterday: "Six Nations is monitoring this situation very closely and is in regular contact with the FIR (Italian rugby union) and all other Unions and Federations as well as the relevant local authorities and health organisations."

Fair enough, but they must be ready to act. All mass gatherings of people from different nations could be potential ‘spreaders’ of Wuhan virus, so even it means the cancellation of Italy’s remaining matches then so be it – and if outbreaks occur in Great Britain, Ireland and France, in the next fortnight or so, then call off the whole tournament.

Games can always be played later when the likely pandemic is over, and while I’m pretty certain that some people will then accuse the authorities of overreacting, they need to explain how can you ‘over’ react to a genuine threat to life?

Rugby and all sport is not more important than life or death, and all sporting authorities must take action to stop the spread of the virus, whatever its name.