Figure skating: World championships in Montreal canceled due to coronavirus

(Reuters) - The world figure skating championships, scheduled to be held in Montreal from March 16-22, have been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Quebec government said on Wednesday.

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Canada has a total of 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday, with Quebec having a total of eight cases.

“People at that event are coming from different countries, indoors space. There’s a lot of people, thousands of people and we’ve just been declared a pandemic in the world, so we think it’s the best scenario to protect the population,” Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann told reporters, noting the decision was made in consultation with public health officials.

The decision to cancel the world championships comes a day after the International Skating Union (ISU) announced strict requirements for attending the event, including monitoring temperatures of skaters, coaches and officials.

It also marks the second major sporting event affected in Canada in recent days because of the coronavirus. The women’s world ice hockey championship, which was set to begin on March 31 in eastern Canada, was canceled last Saturday.

The flu-like virus, which originated in China late last year, was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization earlier on Wednesday.

Skate Canada said in a statement that the Quebec government informed the organization and ISU of its decision to cancel the event and that they “fully respect the difficult decision made today.”

Italian figure skating coach Lorenzo Magri raised concerns about the Montreal event in an Instagram post earlier on Wednesday. “I don’t want to see the same kind of situation (as Italy) all around the world,” Magri said.

He added that he had a thousand questions and was scared.

The Italian government imposed a country-wide lockdown on Monday in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Italy has reported over 10,000 total cases and more than 600 deaths from the virus.

While the figure skating event has been canceled, the March 14-22 women’s world curling championship in western Canada, where teams from Japan, South Korea, China and Italy are among those due to compete, remains on schedule.

Reporting by Denise Paglinawan in Toronto; Additional reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Leslie Adler and Toby Davis