UAE Team Emirates have announced that their riders and staff at the UAE Tour will remain in the country as a precaution, despite being given the all-clear to leave following the coronavirus scare that saw the final two stages of the race cancelled.
More than 600 people on the UAE Tour – riders, staff, race organisation and media – had been quarantined in their hotels in Abu Dhabi since Thursday evening after the Abu Dhabi Sports Council announced that there were two suspected cases of the coronavirus Covid-19 among Italian staff members from a participating team. It emerged on Saturday that both members had since tested negative for Covid-19.
PA reported on Sunday that the first 450 tests have come back negative, and many teams have already left Abu Dhabi, including Team Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, Bora-Hansgrohe, Movistar and Israel Start-Up Nation.
While some teams left for the airport, it was reported on Saturday evening that three teams – Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ and Gazprom – were being kept in quarantine in their Abu Dhabi hotel pending further tests. Cofidis rider José Herrada expressed his frustration on Twitter on Sunday morning: "Some riders are still held in our rooms in Abu Dhabi with little information and a negative result for coronavirus. Others have been able to leave."
UAE Team Emirates stated on Sunday that all of their riders and staff had tested negative for Covid-19, but they were remaining in the United Arab Emirates for the time being in order to alleviate the risk of contagion.
"Despite being given the green light to travel home and the last tests carried out coming back negative, our team has decided to extend their stay in the UAE to continue testing everyone’s conditions and go home only with the safety of non-contagion," read the UAE Team Emirates statement.
"In light of some known cases of flu within our group and other teams, we will be tested again in the next few days and once the situation has improved, riders and staff will return to their families."
UAE Team Emirates confirmed that their decision to remain in Abu Dhabi was a voluntary precaution and not one imposed upon them by local authorities: "Until yesterday, we have followed the instructions of the relevant authorities and organizers, while today we have decided autonomously to pursue our own measures."
The UAE Team Emirates riders who will remain in Abu Dhabi in the coming days include Fernando Gaviria, who is targeting success at Milan-San Remo this spring. Tadej Pogacar finished second overall at the shortened UAE Tour.
"Our team cares more about the health of our athletes and staff than race results, and we are well aware that extending our stay in isolation will hamper our sporting ambitions in view of the upcoming events," read the UAE Team Emirates statement.
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