FIA ‘closely monitoring’ coronavirus outbreak as Chinese GP comes into question

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
PA Media: Sport

Motor racing’s world governing body is “closely monitoring” the coronavirus outbreak in China as question marks continue to surround the Formula One race in Shanghai in April.

There are now 7,711 confirmed cases of the virus in China, with 170 people having died after contracting it.

It has already led to the postponement until next year of the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Nanjing, which is over 500 kilometres away from the city at the centre of the epidemic, Wuhan.

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The Chinese Football Association has also delayed the start of the domestic football season, including the lucrative Super League competition which features former Premier League stars such as Yaya Toure and Marouane Fellaini.

The Chinese Grand Prix, due to take place on April 19, is now in the spotlight and the FIA, motor sport’s governing body, is following events closely.

“Following the coronavirus epidemic that broke out in China, the FIA is closely monitoring the evolving situation with relevant authorities and its member clubs, under the direction of FIA medical commission president, Professor Gerard Saillant,” an FIA statement read.

“The FIA will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming races and, if necessary, take any action required to help protect the global motor sport community and the wider public.”

There had been concerns that a decision to postpone the World Indoor Athletics Championships to 2021 could create an issue for athletes also hoping to compete in next year’s European Indoors Championships in Poland.

However, Svein Arne Hansen, the president of European Athletics who sits on the World Athletics Council, said it was agreed there would be a minimum of two weeks between the events to allow athletes to compete in both.

The European event will be staged in the Polish city of Torun between March 5 and 7 next year.

It is understood half a dozen cities expressed an interest in stepping forward to hold the global indoor championships this March.

However, the medical advice to the World Athletics Council was that if the outbreak was to spread significantly to other parts of the world, it may lead to a further cancellation and to athletes from some countries being unable to compete.

A source close to World Athletics said the decision was “a conservative and fair one” in the circumstances.

Triple jumper Nathan Douglas told the PA news agency: “Everyone will see this as a smart decision, because you can’t really play with people’s health like that.

“At the same time, a lot of people will be disappointed and moving it to next year adds its own headache.”

Golf’s European Tour has stated that the Volvo China Open in Shenzhen, scheduled for April 23-26 remains on its schedule as things stand.

A spokesperson for the Tour said: “Following the outbreak of coronavirus in China, we are in regular contact with the appropriate Chinese and international authorities to ensure we have the latest health and safety and travel advice.

“The Volvo China Open from April 23-26 in Shenzhen remains on our schedule, but we are continuing to monitor the situation closely. As with all our tournaments, the well-being of players, spectators and staff remains our absolute priority.”

The LPGA Tour has refused to comment on reports that the Blue Bay event, held on Hainan Island and due to take place between March 5 and 8, has been cancelled.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency committee is expected to meet on Thursday to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency.

The WHO said the “whole world needs to be on alert” over the new coronavirus outbreak.

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