Coronavirus latest: Vietnam halts sports events, Tokyo 2020 task force, Paralympics confidence and more

People wear face masks while praying at a pagoda on the seventh day of Lunar New Year celebration in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)

Vietnam has halted all national and international sports events in the country this month due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Vietnam Sports Administration released a statement on February 4 urging all the country’s provinces to consider halting sports events that could attract crowds, and said the staging of larger national and international events after February would be reviewed.

The embargo casts doubt on several major events, including the inaugural Formula 1 Vinfast Vietnam Grand Prix on April 3 to 5, and the Vietnam Golf Trophy on March 15 to 19. Both events are due to take place in Hanoi.

The Asian Football Confederation is changing Ho Chi Minh City and Than Quang Ninh’s AFC Cup home matches scheduled for February to away matches. Ho Chi Minh City’s match against Yangon United will now take place in Myanmar on February 11, with the return leg in Vietnam on April 29. Than Quang Ninh will play Ceres Negros on February 25 in the Philippines, and then in Vietnam on May 13, 2020.

The Vietnam Sports Administration also said Vietnamese teams that have permission to participate in overseas competitions and training must avoid territories with coronavirus outbreaks.

Other effects of the epidemic on the sports industry in the last 24 hours include:

Tokyo 2020 task force created

Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers have set up a task force to coordinate with public health authorities on responding to the outbreak.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive officer Toshiro Muto said at a press briefing yesterday that he was chairing the newly created Novel Coronavirus Countermeasures Task Force, which held its first meeting on February 4.

Muto said earlier this week that the outbreak could throw “cold water” over the 2020 Games. At yesterday’s briefing, he pledged the Games “would go on as planned.”

Paralympic confidence

During its ninth and penultimate review for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Paralympics yesterday, IPC chief brand and communications officer Craig Spence stressed the coronavirus has had “minimal impact” on Games preparations.

Spence said: “The outbreak of coronavirus so far has had minimal impact on Games preparations and both the IPC and Tokyo 2020 are going about our plans as expected with athlete health and well-being remaining our top priority.

“When it comes to the virus, it must be stressed that neither the IPC nor Tokyo 2020 are the health experts; our job and focus is organising the Games. The experts are the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other relevant national authorities, and we will continue to have regular dialogue with them and follow their advice.

“Although the latest WHO statistics detailing the numbers known to be infected by the virus outside of China are still relatively small, we would not be doing our job properly if we are not prepared for every eventuality.

“We are therefore encouraged that Tokyo 2020 has established an internal taskforce on what measures may need to be taken should this virus continue into the summer. We are also fully reassured that the relevant Japanese authorities, as well as the WHO, will take all necessary measures to address the ongoing situation.

“What is important now is that we put this outbreak into perspective in terms of cases and try to calm people’s fears. Fear spreads much faster than any virus and currently, according to the WHO, there are less than 200 reported cases outside of China.”

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place between August 25 and September 6, bringing together 4,350 athletes from around 160 countries to take part in 22 sports.

AFC Cup matches fail to take place

The Asian Football Confederation Cup Preliminary Round 2 Central and East Zone matches between Turkmenistan’s FA Ahal and Kyrgyz Republic’s FC Neftchi, and Mongolia’s Ulaanbaatar City FC and Chinese Taipei’s Taipower Company did not take place as scheduled on February 5, 2020. The AFC said in a statement that “appropriate action will be taken in due course”.

Asian Wrestling Championships

The Wrestling Federation of India has assured China that its 40-member wrestling contingent will be allowed to participate at the upcoming Asian Championships, provided they go through virus detection protocols. The championships are set for New Delhi from February 18 to 23.

The Chinese Wrestling Association has told the WFI that their 40 wrestlers have been quarantined and none have so far tested positive for the coronavirus.

WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh told the Press Trust of India: “Today I met the external affairs minister and I’m extremely hopeful there will be no problem.

“All the wrestlers who will participate will go through all the precautionary measures.

“UWW (United World Wrestling, the governing body) has also written to us stating that there should no visa problems. When we are allotted a tournament, we have to give them the assurance that no country will be denied participation by us.”

Chinese Table Tennis

Xinhua reported that the Chinese Table Tennis Association has cancelled all competitions and activities in China for the next two months, including the Asian Cup scheduled to be held in Wenchang, Hainan from February 28 to March 1.

It has also cancelled a planned training session for the country’s top players in Haikou, Hainan that was scheduled ahead of the World Table Tennis Team Championships in Busan, South Korea from March 22 to 29. The Chinese team will now stay at their current location in Qatar’s capital Doha and train there ahead of the Qatar Open from March 3 to 8, after which they will travel directly to South Korea for the team championships.

Xu Jiayu donation

Chinese swimmer Xu Jiayu has donated a third of his winnings from the recent International Swimming Federation Champions Swim Series to help coronavirus victims in his home country. The 2017 and 100 metres backstroke world champion gave $10,000 (€9,100) towards the cause.

Singapore school sports shutdown

Singapore has suspended assemblies, camps, mass celebrations and other large group and communal activities in schools. The ongoing National School Games will continue but athletes will compete in empty stadiums and halls. An estimated 60,000 students will compete across 29 sports in the NSG, which runs from January to August.