Participants ride through a dusty road during the UAE Tour first stage.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
A major cycling race in the United Arab Emirates was canceled early Friday after two Italians tested positive for the new coronavirus, setting off a quarantine that also ensnared four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome of Britain.
The Abu Dhabi Sports Council's decision to cancel the race comes as the virus rapidly spreads across the wider Middle East, with over 370 confirmed cases.
The Higher Organising Committee has cancelled the remaining stages of the 2020 UAE tour after two Italian staff members of one of the teams participating in the UAE tour had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
"The decision has been taken to ensure protection of all the Race's participants," said the Higher Organising Committee, adding that "safety comes at the top of all priorities."
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, and 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.
The ministry added that all the necessary precautions to ensure highly efficient preventive measures are being taken, including check-ups and observation of people in contact with patients, to guarantee the protection of the society and its safety and preserve public trust.
The United Arab Emirates is "well prepared and equipped for the worst case scenarios" as the coronavirus spreads in Middle East, an official from the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority told reporters.
The UAE has enough facilities to quarantine patients and relevant bodies have been instructed to undertake "a complete surveillance of all people entering the country", the official said. The UAE has reported 13 people have been diagnosed with the infection, of whom three have recovered and two are in critical condition. Iran, UAE's neighbour across the Gulf, reported on Tuesday a total of 16 virus-related deaths, the most outside China.
The deadly coronavirus epidemic will cost world tourism at least $22 billion owing to a drop in spending by Chinese tourists, the head of the World Travel and tourism Council said Thursday.
The COVID-19 epidemic has killed more than 2,760 people, mostly in China -- where it first emerged in December -- and infected more than 81,000 in over 45 countries.
"It is too soon to know but the WTTC has made a preliminary calculation in collaboration with (research firm) Oxford Economics which estimates that the crisis will cost the sector at least $22 billion," Gloria Guevara told El Mundo daily.
"This calculation is based on the experience of previous crises, such as SARS or H1N1, and is based on losses deriving from Chinese tourists who have not been travelling in recent weeks," she said.
"The Chinese are the tourists who spend most when they travel."
The loss figure, which equates to about 20.2 billion euros, is the most optimistic scenario envisaged by the study which was published on February 11 by Oxford Economics, taking the hypothesis of a 7.0 percent drop in overseas trips by Chinese nationals.
But the losses could more than double, reaching as much as $49 billion if the crisis lasts as long as the SARS outbreak, which erupted in November 2002 and was brought under control in July 2003.
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