July 25, 2020 / 4:54 AM / 19 days ago

Halep's Palermo appearance in doubt after Italy's quarantine order

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Semi Final - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 30, 2020 Romania's Simona Halep reacts during her match against Spain's Garbine Muguruza REUTERS/Hannah Mckay/File Photo

(Reuters) - The upcoming Palermo Ladies Open could lose its biggest draw in world number two Simona Halep after Italy decided to impose a mandatory quarantine of 14 days for people coming from Romania and Bulgaria amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Friday people who have been in Romania and Bulgaria in the past 14 days will be quarantined upon arrival in Italy, a move aimed at preventing the importation of COVID-19 cases.

Palermo will mark the first professional tennis event across the WTA and men’s ATP Tours since early March with action scheduled to get underway on the clay courts of the Sicilian capital from Aug. 3.

Tournament director Oliviero Palma said organisers have written an urgent letter to Speranza, asking for exemption for tennis players taking part in the event.

“The provision would penalise a player like (Romanian) Simona Halep, world’s number two and Wimbledon’s reigning champion, who wouldn’t take part in Palermo’s tournament anymore,” Palma said in a statement.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the novel coronavirus but the number of daily new infections being reported is a fraction of those seen in late March. The country has recorded over 35,000 deaths from the virus.

Palermo will have strict health precautions and all players will undergo COVID-19 tests before they come, on arrival and every four days subsequently.

“We’re convinced that the health protocols adopted by the WTA are so strict to guarantee the safety and health not only of athletes, yet also of all the various workers involved in the event,” said Palma.

“I’m convinced that there are all the necessary conditions and guarantees to give a derogation for all tennis players coming from Romania or Bulgaria, in order to avoid their quarantine and, hence, their retirement from the tournament.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Jane Wardell

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