Tokyo—Japan’s J-League postponed its cup competition on Tuesday over the deadly coronavirus, which has affected dozens of sports events across the globe.
The football league postponed seven cup games scheduled for Wednesday, and said it will discuss suspending all matches until March 15.
“J-League will provide its maximum cooperation for the prevention of the spread (of the virus) and anti-infection measures,” a statement said.
The football leagues in China, the epicentre of the outbreak, and South Korea have been suspended, while some games in Italy will be played behind closed doors.
On Monday, a panel of medical experts advising Japan’s government warned the coming weeks will be a “critical” period to preventing the new coronavirus from spreading out of control.
Japan’s health minister has already urged people to avoid crowds and unnecessary gatherings, and the government has called for businesses to encourage teleworking and off-peak commuting.
The latest decision was made as the clock ticks closer to the Tokyo Olympics, which start in five months’ time on July 24.
Organizers have repeatedly stressed that the Games will not be cancelled or rescheduled despite mounting fears over the spread of COVID-19.
Training for Olympic volunteers was suspended over the weekend, and the Tokyo marathon on March 1 has been closed to all but elite runners.
At least 156 people diagnosed with new coronavirus in Japan, along with nearly 700 on a cruise ship that was quarantined off the country for two weeks.
Four people who became ill on the ship have died. Domestically Japan has reported one fatality linked to the virus.
Meanwhile, the table tennis’s world team championships, due to take place next month in the South Korean city of Busan, were postponed on Tuesday following a leap in novel coronavirus cases.
The International Table Tennis Federation said the event, originally planned for March 22-29, had been provisionally rescheduled for June 21-28 following an emergency meeting with local organisers.
South Korea’s K-league had already postponed the start of the new football season on Monday as the virus causes chaos in the country’s sporting calendar.
Volleyball, basketball and handball have taken similar measures as confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 893 in South Korea, with eight deaths.
“In light of the emerging situation in Korea Republic and to best preserve the health and safety of players, officials and fans, the Hana Bank 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan have been postponed with the dates of 21-28 June provisionally reserved,” said an ITTF statement.
“By continuing to work hard and in close cooperation with all stakeholders in Busan, the ITTF remains confident about putting on a great World Championships in June.”
The coronavirus has had a serious impact on sports events worldwide, with football matches in Italy, China and Japan postponed as well as the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and elite women’s LPGA golf tournaments in Thailand, Singapore and China.
The Korean Volleyball Federation said it would hold matches behind closed doors until “an improvement in the situation”.
The Women’s Korean Basketball League took a similar decision last week and offered fans full refunds.
And the Korea Handball Federation cut its season short, cancelling the playoffs and finals.
Nearly 2,700 people have died in China but the rising number of coronavirus cases and deaths elsewhere has deepened fears about a potential pandemic.
More than 2,000 cases and 30 deaths have been reported outside China.