Newcastle ban handshakes over coronavirus fears

Newcastle United have banned players from shaking hands at the club amid fears coronavirus could spread, manager Steve Bruce has said.

The global flu epidemic that originated in China has caused more than 2,700 deaths to date.

- Marcotti: Soccer, sports and coronavirus

Italy was the first European country to suffer an outbreak of COVID-19, with over 250 suspected cases and 12 deaths in the country. According to the BBC, more than 80,000 people in nearly 50 countries have been infected.

The virus has hit the world of sport and Premier League side Newcastle have taken preventative steps in the battle against it.

The club have not reported any flu-like symptoms but Bruce said: "There is a shaking hands ritual here, everyone shakes hands with each other when we see each other in the morning. We have stopped that on the back of the virus.

"Let's hope it doesn't get any worse. We are like everyone else, glued to the TV seeing what happens next. We are mindful of bugs sweeping through."

World Health Organization head Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus has told the BBC coronavirus has reached a "decisive point" and has "pandemic potential."

In football, four Serie A games were postponed last weekend, while Thursday's Europa League match between Inter and Ludogorets at the San Siro took place behind closed doors.

"I think the whole world has to think differently and be aware of the virus," Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said. "I think we'll definitely look at things. You can see what happens in Italy with the games and I think it's a worry for everyone. We've got to take the precautions we need to."

Elsewhere, a player for Italian third division club US Pianese has tested positive coronavirus, marking what is believed to be the first case of a footballer in Europe.

With Italy a Euro 2020 venue, UEFA issued a statement on Wednesday, saying "there is no need to change anything in the planned timetable" while also adding that "the issue will be kept under constant scrutiny."

Wembley will host seven matches at the tournament, the most of any of the 12 venues across Europe, and the Football Association is monitoring developments regarding the situation.

In Spain, Valencia have announced in a statement they have cancelled all public acts, including news conferences, as they look to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Among the acts that have been cancelled is the tribute to former player David Villa that was scheduled to take place ahead of Saturday's home game against Real Betis.

Valencia confirmed on Thursday that a Spanish sport journalist that covered their Champions League game against Atalanta in Milan on Feb. 19 has tested positive for the virus.

ESPN's Adriana Garcia contributed to this report.