UPDATED: The final two stages of the UAE Tour have been cancelled after two Italian staff members of one of the teams participating were confirmed as having tested positive for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-19, which has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide, and killed almost 3,000.
The race hotel, the Crowne Royal Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island, was sealed off late on Thursday, with riders, staff and journalists not allowed to leave pending health checks.
"The Abu Dhabi Sports Council has cancelled the remaining rounds of the 2020 UAE Tour after two Italian participants had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19," read an initial press release from the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
A similar press release later issued by the Higher Organising Committee of the race, which includes Giro d'Italia organisers RCS Sport, who organise the race in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi and Dubai sports councils, added that "two Italian staff members of one of the teams participating in the UAE Tour" had tested positive for the virus.
"The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all the race's participants. Safety comes at the top of all priorities," both press releases continued.
"In the meantime, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said that all the race's participants, administrative staff and organisers will be examined through the continuous periodic screening being conducted," the statements read.
"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."
Italian media initially reported via Twitter the arrival of the CBRN, a unit of the local police that deals with "chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear" issues at the hotel.
The race leader after five of the seven stages, Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), is expected to be confirmed as the overall winner of the race.
Officials around the globe have been working furiously to contain the virus, which originated in Wuhan City in China. The vast majority of the deaths have been in that region, where hospitals struggled to cope with the sudden demand of ill patients.
However, a recent study showed that 81 per cent of infected individuals showed only mild symptoms, and young, healthy people had a very low fatality rate. Most of the deaths have been in elderly people or those with pre-existing health conditions.
Quarantines have been put into place in two small areas in the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy after an outbreak lead to the infection of more than 600 and killed 17 people so far. The incubation period is thought to be up to two weeks before symptoms arise.
There have been 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United Arab Emirates, where nine patients have recovered so far and none have died. These largely came via people returning from China and Iran.
🇦🇪 #UAEtourWe have taken note of the cancellation of the UAE Tour due to the occurence of the coronavirus. We wish all the people involved the very best, awaiting further developments.February 27, 2020
#COVID2019 #UAETour Nell'hotel stanno venendo effettuati dei test.In the hotel the local authorities are testing all the riders and the staff members #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/3y0YxZGLxgFebruary 27, 2020