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Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens postponed over virus: World Rugby

The decision was made 'in response to continued health concerns', a World Rugby statement said.

Commuters wearing face masks as a precautionary measure to protect against the possible spread of a SARS-like virus outbreak ride an escalator at an MTR subway station ahead of the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong on 23 January 2020. Picture: AFP

HONG KONG - Rugby's Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens were postponed from April to October over the coronavirus on Thursday, joining the Chinese Grand Prix, golf and football fixtures on the growing list of sporting casualties.

The decision, which disrupts sevens rugby in the run-up to the Olympics, was made "in response to continued health concerns relating to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak", World Rugby said.

"The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority," it added in a statement.

The announcement comes a day after the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, scheduled for 19 April, was postponed, becoming the biggest single sports event affected by COVID-19 so far.

The flagship Hong Kong Sevens was scheduled for 3-5 April, with Singapore a week later. Both cities are scrambling to deal with the virus, with 50 confirmed cases each and one death in Hong Kong.

The Singapore tournament will now take place on 10-11 October and Hong Kong a week later on 16-18 October, concluding the 10-stop world series.

The COVID-19 death toll leapt to 1,367 on Thursday with nearly 60,000 infections in China, where the virus is thought to have emerged in the city of Wuhan.

'REAL SHAME'

The Hong Kong Sevens, an annual springtime fixture since 1976, is an important source of revenue and prestige for a city which has plunged into recession following months of pro-democracy protests and the US-China trade war.

The colourful, three-day tournament, a guaranteed sell-out, is the signature event of the sevens series and was a driving force behind the sport's Olympic inclusion.

"It's obviously a real shame but they have to put the health of those involved and attending first so it's the right thing to do if it's postponed," Ben Ryan, who coached Fiji to Olympic sevens gold in 2016, told the South China Morning Post.

Asia's sports schedule has been hammered by the coronavirus, with Singapore's HSBC Women's World Championship, starting on 27 February, among two golf events cancelled this week.

The start of China's Super League football is indefinitely on hold, and Chinese clubs are mostly sidelined from Asia's Champions League until April.

Athletics' World Indoor Championships, due to be held in Nanjing in March, were postponed for a year, while boxing, tennis, basketball, skiing, diving, snooker and badminton have also been affected in China.

But the biggest domino to fall was Shanghai's Formula One grand prix, which was postponed "to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans", the FIA, motorsport's governing body, said on Wednesday.

No new date was proposed for the race - one of 22 on this year's calendar - and there has been no announcement about the inaugural grand prix in Vietnam, scheduled for 5 April.

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