January 31, 2020 / 1:30 AM / 6 months ago

LPGA event canceled, Olympic soccer qualifiers changed due to coronavirus

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The outbreak of the new coronavirus caused further disruption to the international sporting calendar on Friday with the elite women’s LPGA golf tour cancelling an event in China and Olympic soccer qualifying matches in Australia having to be shuffled.

More than 200 people in China have died from the flu-like virus with almost 6,000 affected after it emerged late last year in Wuhan in the central Hubei province.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a public health emergency.

The four-team women’s soccer tournament involving China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand was moved from Wuhan — the center of the outbreak of the virus — and hastily rearranged to be held in Australia by the Asian Football Confederation.

Organisers were forced to change their match schedule after China’s team, who arrived in Australia on Jan. 29, were placed in quarantine in Brisbane until after Feb. 5.

None of the players has tested positive for the virus, according to the Chinese Football Association.

They had originally been scheduled to play their first game against Thailand on Feb. 3 but organisers said on Friday they would now play their first game on Feb. 6.

An additional match day of Feb. 12, when China play Australia, had now been scheduled, Football Federation Australia (FFA) said in a statement on Friday.

“As always, the health of everyone involved, from players and officials to the fans and contractors, remains the number one priority,” said FFA Chief Executive James Johnson.

“This new format allows us to stage these matches with that priority in mind and we now look forward to welcoming all teams and hosting a successful tournament.”

The LPGA said its Blue Bay tournament due to be held on Hainan island from March 5-8 had been canceled.

“Given the current health concerns and significant travel restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus in China, the LPGA along with our partners in China have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Blue Bay LPGA,” the Tour said in a statement.

“While we are disappointed that the tournament won’t take place this season, we look forward to going back to Blue Bay in 2021 and for many years to come.”

Several other international sports events have been affected by the outbreak.

The world indoor athletics championships, which were due to be held in Nanjing from March 13-15, have been postponed until next year.

Qualifying tournaments in boxing and basketball for this year’s Tokyo Olympics were also moved from China, while other events have been cancelled or postponed.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sam Holmes/Peter Rutherford

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