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Motor racing-Spectators barred from Bahrain F1 Grand Prix due to coronavirus

March 8, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP19 Mercedes on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 29, 2019 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix will go ahead this month without spectators due to the coronavirus crisis, a blow to the Gulf’s Arab states important tourism sector, Reuters reports.

Bahrain, which is hosting the second round of the Formula One season on March 22, has reported 83 cases of the virus, mostly linked to people who had travelled to Iran.

“Convening a major sporting event, which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travellers and local fans to interact in close proximity would not be the right thing to do at the present time,” organisers the Bahrain International Circuit said.

“To ensure that neither the sport, nor its global supporter base, is unduly impacted, the race weekend itself will still go ahead as a televised event.”

Concerts featuring DJ’s Afrojack and Don Diablo over the race weekend have been cancelled.

Bahrain has suspended flights to some destinations over concerns of the rapidly spreading virus.

READ: Iran lawmaker dies from coronavirus

It has also asked people entering the country who have recently visited Italy, South Korea, Egypt and Lebanon to isolate themselves for two weeks.

Organisers had earlier suspended ticket sales as they assessed how many spectators would be allowed to attend the race.

The Grand Prix, Bahrain’s biggest global sporting event, reported a record three-day crowd of 97,000 in 2019, with 34,000 on the Sunday.

Tourism is an important contributor to Bahrain’s economy, which in recent years has been in deficit and sought bailouts from its wealthier Gulf Arab neighbours.

Concerns over rapid spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 194 people and infected 5,823 others in Iran, has led to a raft of major events including concerts being cancelled in the Gulf region.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is one of two Formula One races held in the Gulf, with Abu Dhabi hosting the closing race in November.

The opening race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, is scheduled to be held on March 15.

READ: Concerned by coronavirus outbreak, UAE advises against travel abroad