[Updated] Australian F1 GP called off over coronavirus concerns

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This weekend’s F1 Grand Prix season opener in Australia has been called off over COVID-19 outbreak concerns, reports BBC Sport.

[UPDATED] F1, the governing body the FIA and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) have issued an official joint statement announcing the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix.

On Wednesday, five F1 team members were advised to go into isolation after developing suspected coronavirus symptoms. Out of the five, a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus. The infected team member is currently self-isolating in Australia. The team subsequently withdrew from the Australian season-opener.

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton expressed his shock on Wednesday that the Australian Grand Prix would still press ahead amid the global coronavirus outbreak. The Mercedes driver also expressed concerns about the number of fans attending the season-opening race.

The Chinese Grand Prix had already been postponed and next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix is set to take place behind closed doors. The first-ever Vietnam Grand Prix slated for 5 April is alsounder threat.

[UPDATED] Full statement by F1, FIA and AGPC:

“Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening. Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead.

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“Formula 1 and the FIA, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) have therefore taken the decision that all Formula 1 activity for the Australian Grand Prix are cancelled.

“We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course.

“All parties took into consideration the huge efforts of the AGPC, Motorsport Australia, staff and volunteers to stage the opening round of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, however concluded that the safety of all members of the Formula 1 family and the wider community, as well as the fairness of the competition take priority.”

A global threat

Earlier today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) today declared the COVID-19 disease as a pandemic. Over 118,000 confirmed cases have been reported across 114 countries globally to date.

The outbreak has disrupted many global conferences and sporting events and the trend is likely to continue. The first big-name event to cancel was the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, followed by several others including Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference and the Game Developers Conference (GDC). Elsewhere, many Serie A football games have been called off or played behind closed doors. The Japan 2020 Summer Olympics may be cancelled due to the pandemic, which could see the country lose up to USD75 billion in revenue should the games not happen.

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The last time the Olympics was cancelled was in 1944, during World War II.

For up-to-date COVID-19 updates, head over to the WHO situation reports page.

You can find an interactive web-based map to track the outbreak at Johns Hopkins.

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