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Bahrain Grand Prix goes behind closed doors in response to coronavirus | Sport


This month’s Bahrain Grand Prix will take place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak. The second round of the Formula One season, due to be staged on 20-22 March, has become the latest sporting event to close to the public because of the virus.

A statement from race organisers said: “In consultation with our international partners and the Kingdom’s national health taskforce, Bahrain has made the decision to hold this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix as a participants-only event.

“As an F1 host nation, balancing the welfare of supporters and racegoers is a tremendous responsibility. Given the continued spread of Covid-19 globally, convening a major sporting event which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travellers and local fans to interact in close proximity would not be the right thing to do at the present time.

“But to ensure that neither the sport, nor its global supporter base, is unduly impacted, the race weekend itself will still go ahead as a televised event.”

Bahrain has reported more than 60 cases of the coronavirus. Officials said the race would take place amid a series of rigorous sanitation measures in the country, including “social distancing”.

The statement added: “Bahrain’s own early actions to prevent, identify and isolate cases of individuals with Covid-19 has been extremely successful to date.

“The approach has involved rapid, proactive measures, identifying those affected by the virus, of which the overwhelming majority of cases relate to those travelling into the country by air.”

Bahrain’s decision is the latest setback to the Formula One calendar after the Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled to take place in Shanghai in April, was postponed indefinitely last month.

With the new F1 season starting in the next week, Ferrari say they remain in close contact with the authorities. “Following measures announced by the Italian government [on Saturday] night, we are monitoring and evaluating the situation and are in close contact with the relevant authorities and all organisations involved,” a statement said.

“For Ferrari, compliance with the government regulations represents the primary guarantee for ensuring the safety of its employees and their families, which is our priority. Every single decision will be made with respect to this principle.

“Part of the team and equipment have already arrived in Melbourne and the departures for the remaining members of the team are going ahead as programmed unless we receive communications to the contrary.”

Elsewhere, Wolves’ Europa League game against Olympiakos in Greece appears likely to be played behind closed doors due to coronavirus fears. The Premier League side are scheduled to play the first leg of their round-of-16 tie at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, near Athens, on Thursday.

It was announced on Sunday by the Greek government that spectators were barred from all professional sports events for the next fortnight because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Olympiakos will announce the final decision following a meeting with government and Uefa officials on Monday. Wolves have already sold 1,000 tickets for the game.

While confusion gripped Serie A on Sunday as more than 16 million Italians prepared to go into lockdown in an attempt to combat the spread of coronavirus, Uefa said it remains in “constant contact” with regional and international authorities regarding the impact of the decision on the European campaigns of Internazionale and Atalanta.

Meanwhile, tThe sport’s European governing body has followed the Premier League’s lead by banning pre-match handshakes at all Uefa matches until further notice. Uefa said in a statement: “This will be applied to all Uefa matches and is in line with recommendations made by the World Health Organization to minimise potential transmission of Covid-19.”

Meanwhile players and officials have been instructed to forgo pre-match handshakes at all Uefa matches until further notice and Leeds United have temporarily closed their Thorp Arch training base to their women’s side and some of their academy sides as a precaution.

“Following the increased threat posed by Covid-19, we have taken the decision to temporarily move our women’s side, as well as our academy teams, to new facilities to train at with immediate effect,” said a club statement.

“The Under-23 and Under-18 sides will continue to use Thorp Arch for the time being, but any further risk may result in those teams also staying away. All non-essential visitors will be prohibited.”

The Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ cycling teams have both announced they have been released from 10 days of quarantine in the wake of the abandoned UAE Tour and are heading home.

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