A FOOTBALL league in Hampshire has suspended pre-match handshakes due to the threat of coronavirus.

Bosses at the Sydenhams Wessex League have told players and officials not to shake hands with each other prior to games.

Handshakes after the final whistle have also been temporarily suspended.

Bosses from the league, which is made up of teams mostly from Hampshire and Dorset, say they have taken the decision following guidance from public health bodies in relation to COVID-19.

The ban came on the same day government chiefs confirmed that a person from Hampshire was the first from the county to contract the virus – which has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide.

In a statement, issued on Twitter, league bosses said: "Given the current situation and guidance issued by public health authorities, the league feel it is advisable and prudent that the following be temporarily suspended until further notice.

"The pre-match handshakes as part of the RESPECT campaign by players and officials, handshakes by captains and officials at the toss of the coin prior to the start of the match and handshakes by players and officials after the final whistle.

"This will take effect from March 3 until further notice."

The Wessex League was formed in 1986 and is currently made up of two leagues, each with 20 teams.

The teams are mainly from Hampshire and Dorset, but the league also features teams from the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Berkshire.

Locally, teams such as Eastleigh-based team AFC Stoneham, New Forest-based Lymington Town and Fareham Town all play in the league's Premier Division – the ninth step on the English football pyramid.

The handshake ban was announced yesterday as the Department for Health and Social care confirmed that a Hampshire resident had tested positive for Coronavirus - the first case in the county since the outbreak in China.

The resident was one of 12 further patients to have tested positive of the virus in the UK, bringing the total number of cases to 51 across the country.

According to a joint statement from Hampshire County Council and Public Health England, the Hampshire patient had recently returned from Italy.

The person is now in a treatment centre in London.

Hampshire County Council’s Director of Public Health, Simon Bryant, said: “I’d like to reassure people that the risk to the general public remains low.

“We are working with health colleagues to do everything we can to stop the virus spreading and ensure the people of Hampshire are protected as much as possible.”

With around 90,000 reported cases, more than 3,000 people have died of the virus globally with most of the victims in China.

One of the countries worst hit aside from China is Italy, which on Monday saw a jump in its death toll from 34 to 52.

Last week a cruise ship which sailed from Southampton was turned away from the Dominican Republic after fears of Coronavirus.

Eight passengers on MS Braemar operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines were struck down with flu-like symptoms.

The ship was due to dock at the Port of La Romana, however, the Dominican health authority turned it away.

It was later revealed that no guests or crew had the virus.