Olympic soccer qualifier moved to Australia over coronavirus concerns in China

An Olympic qualifier was moved out of China entirely to Australia due to the coronavirus. (Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the Chinese Football Association is withdrawing as host of an Olympic women’s soccer qualifying event, which will now be played in Australia instead.

Group B of the third round of Olympic qualifying had already been relocated from Wuhan, where the outbreak started, nearly seven hours northeast to Nanjing. On Sunday the Asian Football Confederation announced the event would be moved to Sydney because of the “current situation.”

More than 2,000 people in China have been infected with the coronavirus, and 56 have died of the disease. Wuhan remains in lockdown and officials are rushing to build a 1,000-bed hospital for victims. Health authorities around the world are working to contain the outbreak of a virus whose ability to spread “seems to be getting somewhat stronger,” the Chinese health commissioner said.

Group B consists of Australia, China, Thailand and Taiwan, and it’s scheduled to take place from Feb. 3-9. The top two teams from Group B will play the top two teams from Group A — which includes South Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam, while North Korea withdrew — in home-and-away series to determine the two countries that will join Japan in representing Asian women’s soccer at the Olympics.

The host nation is being cautious about exposing athletes, tourists and locals to the virus with the games 180 days out. Meanwhile, other qualifying events have also been moved in the lead-up.

A boxing qualifier set to take place in Wuhan was canceled late last week due to the virus. It was the first qualifying event slated, but the first will now happen Feb. 20 in Senegal.

Earlier Sunday, the International Tennis Federation moved the regional Fed Cup qualifying event out of China. The Asia/Oceania Group 1 tournament was scheduled for Feb. 4-8 in Dongguan, China, and will now be played in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The federation cited “increasing travel restrictions” in its decision to move it.

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