Events moved out of China over deadly outbreak

Fear over the deadly viral outbreak in China has forced the Asian Football Confederation and International Tennis Foundation to move qualifying events to different countries.

Sydney will replace Nanjing, China, for the AFC’s Feb. 3-7 Olympic qualifying tournament, which had already been moved from Wuhan, the city at the center of the crisis, which remains in lockdown. The illness has already caused 56 deaths.

The ITF, meanwhile, is moving a regional Fed Cup qualifying event out of China because of concerns over the outbreak.

The ITF issued a statement Sunday saying the Asia/Oceania Group 1 event scheduled for Feb. 4-8 in Dongguan, China, would now be played at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

The U.S. consulate in the city at the epicenter announced it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight.

China’s health minister said the country was entering a “crucial stage” as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”

President Xi Jinping on Saturday called the outbreak a grave situation and said the government was stepping up efforts to restrict travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to Wuhan, which remains on lockdown with no flights, trains or buses allowed in or out.

Scientists have identified the illness as a new kind of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS.

The AFC issued a release Sunday saying the Chinese Football Association had withdrawn as host of the tournament, which includes Australia, China, Taiwan and Thailand.

The Chinese federation said that it was making the decision to withdraw because of the “current situation” of the virus in China.

The top two sides from Group B will play off — on a home and away basis — against the top two teams from Group A (South Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam) for the two places at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Fed Cup is an international women’s tennis team event. Teams from China, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Uzbekistan were set to play at Dongguan. The top two teams will earn promotion to the Fed Cup playoffs in April.

“The decision to move the event to a different venue was taken due to increasing travel restrictions in China and followed consultation with independent security advisers,” the ITF said in the statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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