Friday's Euroleague match between Žalgiris Kaunas and AX Armani Milan in Lithuania's second biggest city will go ahead as planned, Žalgiris said on Thursday. Meanwhile, Lithuania confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on Friday.
UPDATE: Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus
The first coronavirus case was confirmed in Lithuania early Friday morning, the country's Health Ministry said. The female patient was diagnosed with the virus after returning from Verona, Italy on February 24.
The patient is now isolated at a hospital in Šiauliai, northern Lithuania.
Euroleague game in Kaunas to go ahead
The Health Ministry has recommended that the match be postponed or played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus threat.
Read more: Coronavirus: Lithuania declares state emergency
However, the club said it will play with fans in attendance. "We'll take every precaution that's possible," Paulius Motiejūnas, the club's director, told reporters on Thursday.
The Health Ministry's Emergency Operations Centre advised Žalgiris to either postpone the game on Friday or play without fans in attendance.
"We asked the Euroleague and got the answer that it was impossible to postpone the match," according Maskoliūnas, the club’s director. "If you cancel a match, you have to move it somewhere. There are schedules and all other things. This is extremely complicated.”
"The other option was to play without fans. We think the club exists for and because of the fans. Matches are played for them and their support is vital for us," he added.
On Wednesday, Žalgiris asked AX Armani fans not to travel to Lithuania for Friday's Euroleague game in Kaunas due to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
The club also called on people who have recently visited China or northern Italy not to attend the match.
According to the director, most Italian fans opted not to travel to Kaunas.
"Following yesterday's statement, the [Italian] club informed us that all the fans who were to fly with them opted not to, so as not to cause problems for us here in Lithuania. Some fans who bought tickets individually have contacted us, too," he said.
Žalgiris estimates that no more than ten Italian fans will come to Kaunas.
Lithuanian fans may return their tickets, too, but only a few of them have applied for a refund so far, Motiejūnas said, adding that all the necessary precautions will be taken at the Kaunas arena.
"We'll bring in additional staff to clean all the door handles and handrails that fans touch,” he said. “Hand sanitisers will be available at the main entrances.”
Read more: Estonia reports first case of coronavirus
"We'll have staff watching arriving people at the entrances,” said Motiejūnas, adding that the club reserves the right “not to allow a person who looks unwell into the arena”.
"Obviously, if the virus were brought to Lithuania and spread in the arena with a capacity of 15,000, it would be extremely difficult to control the COVID-19 outbreak," the ministry said in a statement.
"Europe is currently at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 outbreak," it warned.
Motiejunas confirmed that tickets to the match were sold out three weeks ago and around 15,000 people are expected to attend.
Food sales surge, mask stocks running out
The Association of Lithuanian Pharmacies said earlier this week pharmacies had run out of protection masks, despite specialists' warning that they are necessary only for people that are sick.
Meanwhile, shops across the country have been running out of protective masks, and the sale grains and long shelf-life foods have gone up significantly over the past 24 hours, according to the Maxima supermarket chain.
Psychologist Antanas Kairys, a lecturer at the Vilnius University Faculty of Philosophy, said the reaction "is a normal, human phenomenon".
"People are afraid and are taking all possible ways they can think of to prepare. We are dealing with several issues: limited supplies as people did not expect that everything will be bought so quickly, and also production disruptions in China," Kairys told BNS.
People fear new things and things they have not faced before, he added. "It's obvious when you compare the coronavirus and the flu virus. The new virus is causing much more fear," Kairys said.
Lithuania expands travel warning, health recommendations
Lithuania's Health Ministry said Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea and Singapore are at risk of coronavrisu. China and the northern Italian regions of Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna were previously said to be at risk.
The ministry also specified that a person is considered to be a suspected case if they develop an acute respiratory infection and a cough, fever, or obstructed breathing.
People who have travelled to China, the northern Italian regions, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are being asked to fill in a questionnaire on the National Public Health Centre's website and to avoid close contact with other people for two weeks.
People arriving from the affected countries and regions are also asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days and monitor their health, the ministry said.
If a person develops flu-like symptoms, they should immediately call the emergency response number 112, according to the ministry.
Health officials to inspect passengers arriving from Italy
Lithuania's Ministry of Health requested GetJet Airlines, Ryanair and Wizz Air to collect information on passengers arriving in Lithuania from the Milan, Verona and Treviso airports.
Airlines were also asked to ensure access to specialists from the National Public Health Centre to inspect passengers inside the planes after they land.
The COVID-19 virus has already claimed over 2,700 lives globally, according to the figures from the World Health Organization. The virus has spread to more than 40 countries.
There are no confirmed cases in Lithuania.