Dubai: A major cycling race in the UAE was canceled early Friday after two Italians tested positive for the new coronavirus, setting off a quarantine that also ensnared four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome of Britain.
The Abu Dhabi Sports Council's decision to cancel the race comes as the virus rapidly spreads across the wider Middle East, with over 370 confirmed cases.
"The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all the Race's participants," said the Higher Organising Committee, adding that "safety comes at the top of all priorities."
The Abu Dhabi sports council said two Italians involved in the race tested positive for the new coronavirus. It said it would cancel the two remaining legs of the competition in Abu Dhabi.
"Safety comes at the top of all priorities," the council said.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention in UAE said that all the Race's participants, administrative staff and organisers will be examined through the continuous periodic screening being conducted, and all needed procedures, including quarantine measures, will be taken to ensure viral suppression and curb the spread of its outbreak in coordination with all health and other authorities concerned in the country.
The ministry added that all the necessary precautions to ensure highly efficient preventive measures are being taken, including check-ups and observation of people in contact with patients, to guarantee the protection of the society and its safety and preserve public trust.
That quarantine appeared to ensnare Froome, 34, who was using the tour as a comeback after suffering injuries in a bad 2019 crash.
"It's a shame that the #UAETour has been cancelled but public health must come first," Froome wrote on Twitter. "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."
Italian team Vini Zabu - KTM tweeted pictures of ambulances outside of an Abu Dhabi hotel hosting the riders and participants.
"Our riders have been tested. Tomorrow morning we will know the results," the team tweeted. "It's gonna be a long night and we hope that everyone will come back home without any trouble."
Coronavirus in the region
- UAE Tour cancelled as coronavirus cases discovered
- Coronavirus: New guidelines issued for workplaces, business travel
- Coronavirus in UAE: No smart IDs at e-gates, passports mandatory for Emiratis, GCC citizens and all expats at UAE airports
- Six new cases of coronavirus reported in UAE
- Coronavirus: UAE suspends ferry services with Iran until further notice
Just a day earlier, Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step of closing Islam's holiest sites off to foreign pilgrims to stop the virus' spread.
Meanwhile, the virus continued its spread across top leaders in Iran, afflicting Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar.
The number of infections in Iran has spiked Thursday by over 100 to at least 254, but a World Health Organization official said he believes that figure is "a substantial underestimate of the true number.''