World Athletics has announced the postponement of the World Indoor Championships in Nanjing in March due to increasing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
The sport’s governing body said it had taken the decision following advice from its own medical team and the World Health Organisation, and will look to reschedule the event for March 2021.
World Athletics said in a statement: “We know that China is doing all it can to contain the new coronavirus and we support them in all their efforts but it is necessary to provide our athletes, member federations and partners with a clear way forward in what is a complex and fast-moving set of circumstances.”
World Athletics to postpone World Athletics Indoor Championships Nanjing 2020 to March 2021.
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) January 29, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak has centred on the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is over 500 kilometres away from Nanjing. The UK Department of Health has stated that any Britons returning from Wuhan will be placed in quarantine for 14 days.
The Foreign Office updated its advice on Tuesday to warn against all but essential travel to mainland China, saying it may become more difficult for British nationals in other provinces to leave.
On Wednesday, British Airways announced it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect.
The World Athletics statement added: “The advice from our medical team, who are in contact with the World Health Organisation, is that the spread of the coronavirus both within China and outside the country is still at a concerning level and no one should be going ahead with any major gathering that can be postponed.
“We have considered the possibility of relocating the event to another country and would like to thank the cities that have volunteered to host the championships.
“However, given concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China, we have decided not to go with this option, as it may lead to further postponement at a later date.”
The escalation of the crisis puts the status of the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled to take place in Shanghai in April, in jeopardy.
An F1 spokesman told the PA news agency: “Following the ongoing developments in China and in light of official advice issued by the British Foreign Office, we continue to monitor the situation in China closely with (motor racing’s world governing body) the FIA and the promoter on the ground.”
There have been almost 6,000 confirmed cases in China, with the death toll standing at 132. More than 50 cases have been confirmed outside China.
Its symptoms, including cough and fever and in severe cases pneumonia, are similar to many other illnesses. The source of the virus and the full extent of its spread are still unknown.