People wear face masks as they ride an escalator at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, on Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

People wear face masks as they ride an escalator at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, on Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Virus in China affects sports events, Olympic qualifiers

GENEVA — Amid growing concern at the spread of a new virus outbreak in China, international sports have been postponed and Olympic qualifying tournaments are being taken elsewhere.

The decision on Tuesday by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to postpone Pro League games in China follows qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled in February in soccer, basketball and boxing being moved outside of China.

The Chinese women’s team in field hockey was due to host Belgium for two games on Feb. 8-9 in Changzhou. Those were postponed on Tuesday by the FIH citing “current uncertainties around the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.”

The Lausanne, Switzerland-based governing body said it was “following the recommendations of the World Health Organization,” ahead of future matches. China hosts Australia for two games on March 14-15.

Olympic qualifying events scheduled in China in February to help decide entries for the Tokyo Games opening on July 24 have also been affected in recent days.

Women’s soccer and women’s basketball games were moved to Australia and Serbia, respectively. The soccer games were previously moved from Wuhan, at the centre of the outbreak, to Nanjing. Boxing tournaments for the Asia and Oceania regions will be held in Jordan in March.

The first World Cup races testing the mountain venue for alpine skiing at the 2022 Beijing Olympics are also at risk. A men’s downhill is scheduled for Feb. 15 at Yanqing to start a two-race weekend.

China is also due to host track and field’s indoor world championships from March 13-15 in Nanjing.

More than 100 deaths in China have been recorded due to the disease, including the first in Beijing. More than 4,500 cases reported in China include almost 1,000 people in serious condition, national health authorities said.

The new coronavirus seems to spread less easily among people as SARS or influenza. Most cases involve family members and health workers who had contact with patients.

Cases have been reported in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany.

Hong Kong is to suspend rail services on Thursday linking it to mainland China.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people now in lockdown.

Future sports events in China include a qualifying game for soccer’s 2022 World Cup on March 26, against Maldives, and the China Open golf tournament, part of the European Tour, on April 23-26 in Shenzen.

By The Associated Press