SYDNEY – The Australian Formula One Grand Prix has been canceled because of concerns over the coronavirus. Other sporting events will be played in empty stadiums. In a rare address to the nation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sought to reassure and calm Australians.
The Australian Grand Prix was to have been the first race of the new Formula One season.
There were concerns about whether it would go ahead when a member of the McLaren Racing team tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. After lengthy deliberations, officials say the event in the Australian city of Melbourne will be canceled, but could perhaps proceed “at some later stage.”
The decision throws into doubt the rest of the Formula One schedule.
An international one-day cricket match between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney Friday will be played behind closed doors. Experts are calling on the government to follow other countries, including the United States and Italy, and ban all large-scale sporting fixtures to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Australia has announced a $11 billion stimulus package to try to stave off recession as the economic impact of the disease intensifies.
In a rare televised address to the nation, Morrison said his government is taking a responsible approach to the crisis.
“I want to assure you and your family tonight that while Australia cannot and is not immune from this virus, we are well-prepared and are well-equipped to deal with it, and we do have a clear plan to see Australia through. Our plan has three goals: One, protect Australians’ health; two, secure Australians’ jobs and livelihoods; and, three, set Australia up to bounce back stronger when the crisis is over.”
The Australian share market fell about 7% in the first 10 minutes of trade Friday.
The Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks has said that he and wife Rita Wilson have tested positive for the new coronavirus in Australia. The couple is in the hospital on the Gold Coast, where Hanks was working on a film about the life of Elvis Presley.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia has reportedly passed 160.
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