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Australian GP postponed as sports worldwide react to coronavirus outbreak

Football, F1, cricket, rugby union, tennis, and basketball have all felt the impacts of the pandemic. Credit: AP / PA

Formula One has become the latest sport impacted by the coronavirus pandemic with the first four races of the F1 season called off.

It comes in the wake of the decision to cancel the Australian GP after British racing team McLaren announced it was withdrawing due to a staff member testing positive for the virus.

The team member - believed to be a mechanic - was placed in quarantine in Melbourne on Wednesday after reporting symptoms related to the virus.

The decision to postpone was taken following a crisis two-hour summit involving F1 bosses, its governing body, the FIA, and a number of the sport's team principals.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has questioned the wisdom of staging the season-opening Formula One Grand Prix. Credit: AP

The cancellation of the season-opening Australian GP follows criticism from reigning champion Lewis Hamilton over the race initially going ahead.

At a press conference in Melbourne, the six-time world champion said it was "shocking we are sitting in this room".

He added: "We are seeing (Donald) Trump shutting down the borders, the NBA has been suspended, yet F1 continues to go on."

Around 300,000 racing fans had been expected at the event over the next week.

Hamilton's comments come as sports around the world react to the Covid-19 outbreak by suspending seasons, postponing fixtures, and playing behind closed doors.

Drivers attend a press conference at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. Credit: AP

Formula One is the latest in a number of other sports around the globe to have taken measures in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

Here's a breakdown of some of the reaction from the sporting world:

  • Olympics

The International Olympic Committee says it remains fully committed to staging the Tokyo 2020 Games as scheduled this summer.

That's despite Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggesting it could be postponed until later in the year.

Today's flame-lighting ceremony was pared-down over concerns around the spread of the virus.

The flame-lighting ceremony has been pared-down this year. Credit: AP

The dress rehearsal and lighting ceremony were closed to the public, while organisers slashed the number of officials and journalists from attending the event.

After the outbreak was labelled a "pandemic" by the World Health Organisation, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said "I can't say there won't be an impact [on the Olympics]."

She added: "But I believe cancellation is impossible."

The British Olympic Association still plans to send a delegation of around 55 people to Tokyo this month for a "detailed operational recce".

Paris-Saint-Germain supporters held flares aloft as their players arrived for a game behind closed doors in Paris. Credit: AP
  • Football

Denmark, Italy, Spain, France and Switzerland have already taken the decision to suspend football, while games have been played in empty stadia across Europe this week.

On Friday it was announced all Premier League and English Football League fixtures have been suspended until at least April 4.

England's two friendlies later this month at Wembley, the Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship have have also been postponed.

Officials and shareholders from Premier League, FA, EFL and WSL came to a unanimous decision on the measures, in a statement the group said it "collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England".

Elsewhere the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Professional Football League say fixtures are off until "further notice".

A number of Scottish sporting events are set to be postponed or played behind closed doors following an announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament she would recommend the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.

All Premier League and English Football League fixtures have been suspended until April 4. Credit: PA

While Wales' international match with the United States - scheduled for March 30 in Cardiff - has been postponed due to the outbreak.

Elsewhere the Football Association of Ireland has announced all football activity under its jurisdiction has been suspended until 29 March.

Players run for the ball in an empty stadium during the German Bundesliga soccer match. Credit: AP

Manchester United has said it will reimburse supporters who bought tickets through the club to cover travel costs after a decision was taken at short notice by their opponents LASK to move their Europa League match behind closed doors.

UEFA has postponed all Champions League and Europa League games.

  • Rugby Union

The Six Nations tournament has been hit hard by the outbreak - with the lockdown in Italy having an impact.

The winner could remain unclear until the four postponed fixtures are played at an - as yet unknown - later date.

Having initially pushed ahead with Wales' final round fixture against Scotland in Cardiff, the Welsh Rugby Union has since announced the game will be postponed.

A number of the women's Six Nations fixtures have also been affected.

At club level, the PRO 14 has been suspended indefinitely over concerns about the outbreak.

Rudy Gobert - a player for the Utah Jazz - has tested positive for coronavirus. Credit: AP
  • Basketball

A high profile hit to the sporting world has been the suspension of the NBA season in the US "until further notice".

The decision came after player Rudy Gobert - from the Utah Jazz - tested positive for coronavirus.

Players at the OKC Thunder v Utah Jazz fixture walked off the court after the decision was made while crowds gathered for the game booed.

Owner of basketball team Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban said: "This is something out of a movie, you just don't expect it to happen in real life".

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  • Tennis

The ATP men's tour has been suspended for six-weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers have said if the situation allows, the tour will resume with low-key tournaments in Munich and Estoril beginning on April 27, followed a week later by the Madrid Open.

The suspension also includes the current Challenger tournaments in South Africa and Kazakhstan.

ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said the decision had not been "taken lightly" adding: "It represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide."

It follows the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells being called off on Sunday on the eve of the tournament.

  • Golf

This year's Masters at Augusta has been postponed over concerns around the spread of the virus.

Club chairman Fred Ridley said he hopes postponing the event will put the Augusta National in the best position to host the Masters and its other two events at some later date.

  • Racing

The Cheltenham Festival is going ahead as normal despite the UK Government considering moving the country to the "delay" phase of their coronavirus plan - which includes social isolation measures.

Racegoers have been told not to attend if they have any symptoms of the virus or they have been to or travelled through high-risk countries - or been in contact with anyone that has, in the last 14 days.

The stands were packed with supporters at the Cheltenham Festival. Credit: PA
  • Cricket

The England cricket team's test series in Sri Lanka has been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.