February 28, 2020 / 3:08 PM / a month ago

UAE coronavirus scare confines Danish champion Morkov to Berlin hotel

BERLIN (Reuters) - Danish rider Michael Morkov faced a long and anxious wait alone in a Berlin hotel room to learn if he can compete in the world track championships, after he was caught up on Friday in fallout from a coronavirus scare in the Gulf.

FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France - The 175.5-km Stage 5 from Saint-Die-des-Vosges to Colmar - July 10, 2019 - Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Michael Morkov of Denmark before the start. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

National champion Morkov, 34, left the UAE Tour on Wednesday and arrived in Berlin on Thursday to begin training for Sunday’s madison event in the Berlin velodrome.

But the Tour was canceled on Thursday after two staff members of one of the participating teams were suspected of contracting the coronavirus.

The entire UAE peloton, including four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, plus staff and officials, were in lockdown in their Abu Dhabi hotel - and Morkov meanwhile was also confined to his hotel room in Berlin, awaiting tests.

Denmark team spokesman Morten Anderson said Morkov was training alone in his room on rollers.

“He is in good spirits and doing fine, but he’s tired of this situation that he has to be in the hotel,” Anderson told reporters.

“It’s voluntary and we’ve told him not to leave. He would like to go to the track to train but now we are waiting for the UCI and German medical authorities to tell us his status.

“Hopefully we’ll get the answer in a couple of hours.”

Anderson confirmed that Morkov was in the velodrome celebrating with the Danish team pursuit champions on Thursday.

Morkov’s participation was hanging on whether there was a positive coronavirus test at the UAE Tour, where the status of the two staff members was unclear.

The previous night, Froome and other riders took to Twitter to say they were confined to their hotel rooms, and organizers said two Italian members of a team had tested positive for novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

But cycling’s governing body the UCI said on Friday that the cases were only ‘suspected’ ones and that UAE Tour organizers had acted, in conjunction with the UCI, to cancel the last two stages “in the interests of the health of riders and their staff” to await the outcome of tests.

Late on Friday there was still no word on whether one of the tests had been positive for coronavirus, meaning more than 100 of the world’s best road cyclists remain in limbo in the UAE and Morkov has no idea if he can race in Berlin.

“The UCI and the Organising Committee of the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships have been closely monitoring the situation in Abu Dhabi and its potential impact on the Championships held in Berlin,” a statement said.

“...We are awaiting the results of diagnostic tests carried out in Abu Dhabi in order to decide on the follow-up to the preventive measures implemented to date in Berlin.”

The rapid increase in coronavirus cases raised fears of a pandemic on Friday, with six countries reporting their first cases and the World Health Organization raising its impact risk alert to “very high”. [nL3N2AR0AY]

Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by John Stonestreet

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