Tue, 31 Mar 2020

Sydney - Women's Olympic football qualifiers and a Fed Cup tennis event have been shifted out of China due to growing concerns over the deadly coronavirus while an indoor athletics event was scrapped, officials said on Sunday.

The football tournament had already been moved from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, to Nanjing in Jiangsu province, but will now be held in Sydney, the Asian Football Confederation said.

"The safety of all players, officials and fans is of paramount importance to Football Federation Australia and the Asian Football Confederation, and we are confident we will host a successful tournament here in Sydney," Australian football chief Chris Nikou said in a statement.

China's Xinhua news agency said the Chinese Football Association took the decision to offload the Olympic qualifiers, which involve China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand, after cases of the virus came to light in Jiangsu.

"In consideration of the wide spread of the 2019-nCoV virus across China, after the negotiations with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the CFA decided not to host the qualifying matches to ensure the health of all athletes, coaches and working staff," the CFA was reported as saying.

No date has been given for the re-arranged competition, which was originally scheduled for February 3-9.

Separately, the International Tennis Federation said next month's Fed Cup's Asia/Oceania Group I event had been moved from Dongguan, southern China, to Kazakhstan because of increasing travel restrictions in China.

"The decision to move the event to a different venue was taken due to increasing travel restrictions in China at the present time and followed consultation with independent security advisors," the ITF said.

The women's team event, involving China, Taiwan, India, South Korea and Uzbekistan will now be held in the Kazakh capital on the originally scheduled dates, February 4-8.

The Asian indoor athletics championships planned for February 12-13 in Hangzhou have been cancelled, with the world championships set to take place in Nanjing a month later.

China is drastically restricting travel to contain the epidemic, which has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2 000.

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