The fate of the 2020 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) hangs in the balance after host country Cameroon announced two cases of Coronavirus on Friday – just three weeks to the kickoff of the tournament.
The CHAN is scheduled to kick off in April 2020 and Cameroon is also due to host the continent’s football showpiece Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) next January.
A 58-year-old French citizen who arrived in Yaounde on 24 February first tested positive for COVID-19, before a second infection involving a Cameroonian who had been in close contact with the index case was confirmed by Public Health Minister Manaouda Malachie on Friday.
Reacting to the development, Africa’s football governing body said it isn’t “extremely worried” about the possibility of the CHAN and other ongoing intra-club tournaments being disrupted by the coronavirus.
The Confederation of Africa Football said it will “remain vigilant” in light of the growing spread of coronavirus which has the potential to upend continent-wide football plans.
“We are not extremely worried but remain vigilant with regards to future matches and tournaments such as the CAF Champions League, CAF Confederation Cup and the final tournament of the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN) scheduled to take place in Cameroon from 4-25 April 2020,” CAF said in a statement.
The Cameroonian authorities are yet to address concerns about the CHAN.
The confirmation of the coronavirus in Cameroon brings to eight the number of countries in Africa that have confirmed cases amid an escalation in global spread of the disease which originated in the Wuhan region of China.
Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and South Africa have also reported cases of the coronavirus.
CAF said it is “following with great attention the evolution” of the “pandemic” on the continent and a number of measures are being considered to ensure the safety of fans, players and match officials.
Africa’s football governing body said matches could be played behind closed doors or tournaments postponed or cancelled altogether if the situation required and in consultation with affected countries.
“CAF is following with great attention the evolution of the situation of this pandemic affecting our continent. Eight (8) major African football countries have reported cases to date,” the statement read.
“If the situation requires and in agreement with the countries concerned, matches behind closed doors, postponements or even cancellations are envisaged.”
In the meantime, CAF said it is working to provide “the actors of the game” safety guidelines in line with World Health Organisation recommendations on curbing the spread of coronavirus.
“In the meantime, an advisory to the actors of the game is being promulgated in conformity with guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO),” the statement concludes.
The Tanzania Football Federation on Tuesday banned handshakes between players and match officials and the measures have also been adopted in the English Premier League.
In Italy, the government ordered the closing of schools and Serie A matches will be held behind closed doors.
The top two tiers in Switzerland have postponed all league fixtures amid a government directive prohibiting events with more than 1,000 people.
FIFA has also refused to rule out postponing this month’s round of international fixtures in light of the escalating spread of the coronavirus that has infected over 100,000 people in over 50 countries with over 3,000 people reported to have died from the pandemic.