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Liga MX keeps gates open, tells fans to 'have fun, be safe'

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MEXICO CITY -- Liga MX will introduce special measures during this weekend's matches, but games will continue to operate in front of fans as other leagues around the world close down for the coronavirus outbreak.

Mexico's first division released a statement on Friday afternoon confirming that it is consulting with the country's health authorities and that games would go ahead.

"Liga MX/Ascenso MX is in constant communication with the health ministry and, according to the latest advice giving out, our country is in phase one of prevention and control of COVID-19," read the statement. "According to the authorities, this first scenario doesn't judge playing games with public to be a risk."

Clubs and those attending have been given a list of instructions to follow, including antibacterial gel being made available at stadium entrances, the disinfection of surfaces and additional hygiene training for employees, amongst others.

Mexico's health ministry has also offered advice for those attending games, asking those that feel flu-like symptoms to stay at home, for fans to not to share drinks or food with others and indications on sneezing on the inside part of the arm.

"Have fun, be safe," read the slogan on the bottom of the advice statement.

CONCACAF announced earlier Friday that it was postponing all of its events for 30 days, including the men's Olympic qualifying tournament, which was due to begin on March 20 in Guadalajara.

Major League Soccer suspended its season for 30 days starting Thursday, while the Mexican and U.S. men's national teams have had their friendlies games in the FIFA international break later this month canceled.

"We have been in constant communication with the authorities," Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla told Fox Sports on Thursday. "For obvious reasons we don't have all the information, in the moment that [the authorities] consider that we should take much stricter measures, we will apply them immediately."

As of Friday morning, there were 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Mexico and the government is allowing mass public gatherings to continue, including Liga MX, Liga MX Femenil and Ascenso MX games and a major music festival in Mexico City this weekend.

Liga MX announced on Thursday that the usual pregame handshakes between teams won't be taking place this weekend.

The weekend's matches are headlined by Chivas' home game on Saturday against Monterrey and a Mexico City derby in Estadio Azteca between third-placed Club America and league leader Cruz Azul.

Liga MX remains the most prominent league to continue playing with fans in the stands. Argentina's cup competition is being played behind closed doors although River Plate is refusing to play a match on Saturday due to "the severe risks to the health of the professional squad" presented by the coronavirus, the club said on Friday. 

One River player presented "symptoms compatible" but tested negative. It was not immediately clear whether opponents Atletico Tucuman intend on turning up to play as planned. The decision comes a day after the Argentine government cancelled international sporting events due to be held in the country until the end of March.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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