Thailand, Qatar MotoGPs cancelled over coronavirus
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The Thailand and Qatar MotoGPs have become the latest major sporting events to be disrupted due to the spread of the coronavirus.
"I don't say it's cancelled, I just say it is postponed until time allows us to do it," said Anutin Charnvirakul, chairman of the Thailand MotoGP organising committee.
"It's because of the coronavirus," added Anutin, who is also the country's deputy prime minister and health minister.
"People who attend, racers and teams could come from at-risk countries. Thailand has to postpone for the safety of Thai people until the situation is better."
Thailand has 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19. On Friday, Thai MotoGP organisers were positive about the race taking place on 22 March after announcing extra health measures such as temperature checks, facemasks and hand sanitisers at the Buriram circuit.
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Anutin himself had vowed on Friday not to cancel the event.
However on Sunday, Thailand's health ministry said a 35-year-old Thai man died due to complications caused by the coronavirus.
"Things change every day and it has become pandemic," Anutin said. "We have to go along with the circumstances worldwide and postponement is in the best interests of the nation as well as the participants."
On Sunday, the season-opening Qatar MotoGP on 8 March was axed after Qatari authorities banned arrivals from Italy.
"Due to Qatar travel restrictions brought into force affecting passengers from Italy (amongst other countries), the premier class will not race," the international motorcycling federation (FIM) said.
Six riders in the elite class are Italian, including seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi as well as 2019 runner-up Andrea Dovizioso, while Ducati and Aprilia are leading Italian manufacturers.
Italy has become the hardest-hit European country with 34 deaths and more than 1,600 confirmed cases.
"It's a delicate and strange time for everyone around the world and we need to take things race-by-race and see what develops in the coming weeks," said Suzuki team boss and Italian native Davide Brivio.
In Formula One, the Chinese Grand Prix, which was set for 19 April in Shanghai, has been cancelled as has the Formula E race slated for Sanya on the Chinese island of Hainan on 21 March.
However, the inaugural F1 race in Vietnam, on 5 April, is still going ahead.
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