Formula One bosses are drawing up contingency plans in case — as looks increasingly likely — the Chinese Grand Prix is postponed or cancelled as a result of the coronavirus emergency.
The matter was discussed at a meeting of F1 bosses yesterday, but no decision on whether the event will be staged in Shanghai on April 19 has yet been taken.
That is a matter for the FIA, the sport’s governing body, rather than team bosses who met in London.
The Chinese Grand Prix might have to be cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak
The country’s coronavirus epidemic has infected over 25,000 people and killed nearly 500
A decision will be taken based on advice from local authorities and the race promoters. The topic was debated against a backdrop of escalating concern, with a number of qualification events for the Tokyo Olympics moved.
Tokyo Organising Committee chief executive Toshiro Muto said he was ‘extremely worried’ that the virus — with more than 25,000 cases recorded in China and 500 deaths — ‘could pour cold water on momentum for the Games’ which start on July 24.
There have been no reported deaths in Japan but at least 10 people on a cruise ship off Yokohama — where Team GB will prepare for the Games — were diagnosed yesterday.
The Shanghai Sports General Association, which governs domestic rather than international sport, instructed sporting bodies to suspend events until the virus is over.
A number of F1 team personnel are uneasy about travelling to China.
The 2020 Chinese Grand Prix – which takes place every year – is set to take place on April 19
If it is called off in April, the race could be staged at another time — though a 22-race calendar means space is scarce.
There is also concern, played down by Liberty, that the first Vietnam Grand Prix a fortnight earlier could also fall victim.
If it went too, there would be a gulf in the programme between the Bahrain race on March 22 and the Dutch round on May 3.
WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS?
Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections such as the common cold.
But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.
Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?
Yes – Almost 500 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus.
What are the symptoms?
Some people who catch the Wuhan coronavirus may not have any symptoms at all, or only very mild ones like a sore throat or a headache. Others may suffer from a fever, cough or trouble breathing.
And a small proportion of patients will go on to develop severe infection which can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition which causes swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs.
How is it detected?
The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to create lab tests, which must be carried out to confirm an infection.
Delays to these tests, to test results and to people getting to hospitals in China, mean the number of confirmed cases is expected to be just a fraction of the true scale of the outbreak.
How did it start and spread?
The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
Cases have since been identified around China and are known to have spread from person to person.
Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?
Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.