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Three F1 team members tested for virus at Australian GP

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Melbourne (AFP)

Three staff members of Formula One teams have been isolated at the Australian Grand Prix while tests are conducted to see if they have coronavirus, officials said on Wednesday.

Two were from the Haas F1 team and one from McLaren.

"Two personnel were showing some symptoms so they got themselves checked out and have put themselves into self-isolation, as they should, while they await results," a Haas official told AFP.

A McLaren official added: "We can confirm that one team member has self-isolated in the hotel as a precaution, in line with our policy, after showing symptoms similar to coronavirus.

"We expect to receive the results overnight. The team is operating as per our normal schedule."

They were tested at the Albert Park circuit as the teams prepare for the opening race of the season in Melbourne on Sunday.

It is not clear what it might mean for the grand prix if they come back positive.

Earlier this week, Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott ruled out the race following the lead of Bahrain and barring spectators because of the coronavirus.

All Formula One teams are in Australia, including powerhouse Ferrari and AlphaTauri from their bases in Italy, where swathes of the country are now in lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the disease.

Australia banned travel from Italy Wednesday and opened a US$1.6 billion healthcare war chest in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, as locally detected infections hit 122. Three people have died.

With concerns growing, race chiefs said drivers would not take part in the usual autograph sessions with fans or pose for selfies, while Renault drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon pulled out of scheduled press conference Wednesday.

"Our drivers were supposed to be with us for this event but due to the situation we've excused them for the occasion ... I hope you understand why we are taking such measures," team principal Cyril Abiteboul said.

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