Tour de France winner Chris Froome and fellow cycling star Mark Cavendish are being tested for the coronavirus after two people on the UAE Tour were confirmed to have COVID-19.
Organisers said “two Italian participants” had tested positive and that the race was being scrapped because safety was “top of all priorities”.
Froome, a four-time victor of cycling’s biggest event, said all the riders were all getting tested.
He tweeted: “It’s a shame that the #UAETour has been cancelled but public health must come first.
“We are all awaiting testing and will remain at the hotel until further notice. I hope those affected make a speedy recovery; and there aren’t any further cases #coronavirus.”
All riders and staff were confined to their rooms at the Crowne Royal Plaza hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The final two stages of the Middle East event were due to take place on Friday and Saturday.
In other developments:
- Mark Carney told Sky News that Britain should prepare for an economic growth downgrade if the impact of COVID-19 deepens
- The Dow Jones shares index in the US tumbled almost 1,200 points on Thursday – its biggest ever one-day drop
- UK schools could be closed for more than two months if the outbreak intensifies, said England’s chief medical officer
- Northern Ireland has its first case of the coronavirus as three new cases confirmed in UK
- Some British tourists are being allowed to leave a Tenerife hotel on lockdown; but Jet2 says it will not fly them home until testing confirms they are okay.
Caribbean island bars cruise ship
With fears high that the virus could accelarate further, the Dominican Republic turned away a ship carrying 1,500 people after eight people – including two Britons – showed potential symptoms of the virus.
“We have ordered that it returns to its destination,” said public health minister Rafael Sanchez Cardenas.
The country’s health ministry said it had taken the decision after the captain reported people were under observation after displaying symptoms such as coughing, fever and breathing problems.
The ship carrying 1,128 passenger and 384 crew is operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.
China cases fall sharply again
At the epicentre of the virus, Chinese authorities reported another significant fall in new cases with 327 infections in the mainland; and 44 deaths in the 24 hours to Friday morning.
The virus is believed to have started in the city of Wuhan; and there are now nearly 79,000 cases in the country and 2,788 deaths.
Some 3,600 infections have so far been reported outside China.
South Korea – the second worst-affected country – reported another 256 cases in the last day; bringing its total to 2,022. The country’s K-pop megastars BTS also announced the cancellation of their shows in Seoul.
With many schools across Asia shutting, nearly 13 million students in Japan are also set to stay at home.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for schools across the country to close until later March; to “avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections”.
As parts of northern Italy stay in lockdown as it deals with 650 cases and 15 deaths; Iran – the worst-affected Middle East country – has loosened the rules on foreign-made items to allow in things such as masks and sanitisers.
The country – which has 254 cases and 26 deaths – has also removed overhead rails on Tehran’s subway to try to stop the spread of germs.
Also in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has closed the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to pilgrims raising concerns; over the huge annual hajj pilgrimage that begins in July.
US at virus “turning point”
America has only recorded 60 cases so far; but in California officials are urgently trying to trace the steps of a woman they believe is the first person in the US to be infected without having travelled abroad; or being in close contact with an infected person.
Authorities say it marks a turning point in the virus’s spread in America.
Ten experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were heading to the area to trace her movements; interview family members; and work out how she became infected; and who else she may have passed the virus on to.
She first went for treatment at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville; a city of more than 100,000 people about 59 miles (95km) from San Francisco; and was diagnosed on Wednesday.
State health officials have sought to reassure the public; saying such a scenario was inevitable and the risk remained low.