Cyclists await test results after coronavirus hits UAE Tour
Abu Dhabi (AFP)
Cyclists including Britain's Chris Froome awaited the results of coronavirus tests from their hotel lockdown Friday, after the UAE Tour was abandoned when two Italian staff members tested positive.
"The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all the race's participants," the UAE Tour organising committee said in a statement.
It said the United Arab Emirates health ministry would screen all the race's participants, administrative staff and organisers, and adopt measures "including quarantine" to prevent the spread of the disease.
"It's a shame that the #UAETour has been cancelled but public health must come first," tweeted Froome, a four-time winner of the Tour de France.
"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."
A total of 24 Italian cyclists started the race in the UAE. Italy is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with 650 people infected and 17 deaths.
Italy's Vini Zabu-KTM team said its riders had been tested already.
"Tomorrow morning we will know the results. It's gonna be a long night and we hope that everyone will come back home without any trouble," it said in a statement on Twitter.
The UCI, the sport's governing body, released a statement saying the last stages were "cancelled late yesterday evening after two cases of coronavirus were suspected among two staff members of one of the participating teams".
"While waiting for the results of tests and their communication, the United Arab Emirates authorities, the event's organising committee and the UCI, by mutual agreement, took the decision to interrupt this event in the interests of the health of riders and their staff, and to avoid the virus spreading."
Britain's Adam Yates, who had led the overall race after Thursday's fifth stage, was declared the winner of the event after the final two stages fell victim to the new coronavirus outbreak.
Second was Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia with Kazak Alexey Lutsenko third.
"The final two days of racing are cancelled due to concerns around Coronavirus," Yates's Mitchelton team tweeted on Thursday.
"Riders and staff remain in the hotel and will be tested shortly, with their health taking priority. We hope anyone affected makes a fast recovery."
- Unprecedented move -
Meanwhile, Danish cyclist Michael Morkov of the Deceuninck–Quick-Step team, who took part in the first four stages of the UAE race, has been placed in isolation in his hotel room after arriving in Berlin to take part in the world track championships.
"The UCI and the organising committee (in Berlin) have been closely monitoring the situation in Abu Dhabi and its potential impact on the championships in Berlin," said a spokesman, confirming the isolation of Morkov as "a preventative measure".
The cancellation of the UAE Tour came just a day after Italian golfers Edoardo Molinari and Lorenzo Gagli were quarantined in neighbouring Oman over coronavirus fears before being cleared to play in the country's European Tour event.
Gagli had suffered flu-like symptoms and as Molinari, the older brother of former British Open winner Francesco, was his roommate, both were forced to withdraw from the tournament and placed in isolation as a precautionary measure.
However, they were then cleared to play after the Oman health ministry reported that Gagli's test results were negative.
The UAE on Friday announced six more cases of coronavirus, taking its total to 19. It did not say if the two Italians were included in the new total.
Gulf countries have announced a raft of measures to cut links with Iran to prevent coronavirus spreading, after infections emerged among people returning from pilgrimages to the Islamic republic, which is battling the deadliest outbreak outside China.
Kuwait on Friday announced two more cases for a total of 45, and there were another two cases in Oman for a total of six. Bahrain reporting three new cases -- all Bahraini women returning from Iran -- pushing the total to 36.
Saudi Arabia has no reported cases but has suspended visas for visits to Islam's holiest sites for the "umrah" pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears that raises questions over the annual hajj.
© 2020 AFP