Bahrain GP goes behind closed doors due to coronavirus threat
This month's Bahrain Grand Prix will take place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, organisers have announced.
The second round of the Formula One season, due to be stage from March 20-22, has become the latest sporting event to close to the public because of the virus.
A statement from race organisers said: "In consultation with our international partners and the Kingdom's national health taskforce, Bahrain has made the decision to hold this year's Bahrain Grand Prix as a participants-only event.
"As an F1 host nation, balancing the welfare of supporters and race goers is a tremendous responsibility.
"Given the continued spread of Covid-19 globally, convening a major sporting event which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travellers and local fans to interact in close proximity would not be the right thing to do at the present time.
"But to ensure that neither the sport, nor its global supporter base, is unduly impacted, the race weekend itself will still go ahead as a televised event."
Bahrain has reported over 60 cases of the coronavirus. Officials said the race would take place amid a series of rigorous sanitation measures in the country, including "social distancing".
The statement added: "Bahrain's own early actions to prevent, identify and isolate cases of individuals with Covid-19 has been extremely successful to date.
"The approach has involved rapid, proactive measures, identifying those affected by the virus, of which the overwhelming majority of cases relate to those travelling into the country by air.
"Aggressive social distancing measures have further increased the effectiveness of preventing the virus' spread, something that would clearly be near impossible to maintain were the race to have proceeded as originally planned.
"We know how disappointed many will be by this news, especially for those planning to travel to the event, which has become a cornerstone event of the international F1 calendar, but safety has to remain our utmost priority."
Bahrain's decision is the latest setback to the Formula One calendar after the Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled to take place in Shanghai in April, was postponed indefinitely last month.