At least 132 people are known to have died from the outbreak while the number of confirmed cases rose sharply to nearly 6,000 on Wednesday morning, overtaking the 5,327 confirmed cases of SARS during the 2002-2003 outbreak that killed more than 750 people in 17 countries worldwide.
With the virus spreading and British Airways among a number of airlines to cancel all flights to China, sporting events are already being relocated or cancelled in the Far East. Great Britain’s women’s Olympic basketball qualifying tournament was moved from Foshan in China to Serbia, while Sunday’s women’s Olympic football qualifying matches were rescheduled for February in Sydney.
The China Women’s football team have also been quarantined in their Brisbane hotel because of fears over the possible spread of the virus.
Although the Chinese Grand Prix is scheduled for the weekend of 17-19 April, both F1 and the FIA are monitoring the outbreak and ready to take action if necessary.
An F1 statement read: “Following the ongoing developments in China and in light of official advice issued by the Foreign Office we continue to monitor the situation in China closely with the FIA and the promoter on the ground.”
Grand Prix weekends attract between tens and hundreds of thousands of fans and a virus outbreak on the scale of the coronavirus would almost certainly force the race to be scrapped if the risk remained at its current level.
An FIA spokesperson said that the decision will be made together with F1, the race promoter and the Federation of Automobile Sports in China, the National Sporting Association (ASN), and confirmed that they will be communicating with local authorities over the risk level of staging a grand prix in Shanghai – approximately 800k away from the virus-hit city of Wuhan.
“We are monitoring the situation in close collaboration with F1, the promoter and with our ASN which is our conduit on the ground in China,” the FIA said. “We are all monitoring it together. At this stage not much we can do except watch the situation and react if necessary, if recommendations are made by the relevant authorities.”
Formula E are also due to stage a race in China in the near future, with the Sanya E-Prix scheduled for the 21 March in under two months’ time. Formula E will continue to monitor the situation and make a decision closer towards the event in the South China Sea resort – which is nearly 2,000km from Wuhan.
A Formula E statement read: “As it stands, the race in Sanya on 21 March is still scheduled to go ahead as planned.
“Given the current health concerns, we are continuing to closely monitor the situation as it develops on a daily basis. We have requested that our regional partner works together with the local motorsport federation, to liaise with the relevant authorities in Hainan province to further analyse and assess the situation and provide recommendations on preparations for the race.”
The World Indoor Athletics Championships are also under threat in Nanjing, just 500km from Wuhan, and although a decision will be made in the next 10 days over whether the event goes ahead on the 13-15 March, it’s understood that Great Britain will withdraw regardless after communicating with the Foreign Office.
World Athletics are currently communicating with the World Health Organisation, and confirmed that any decision will be passed on immediately. “Should any of their advice affect plans for the World Indoor Championships Nanjing 2020, we will notify all our stakeholders promptly,” a spokesperson said.