MELBOURNE - The Australian Formula One Grand Prix was cancelled on Friday because of the coronavirus outbreak only hours before the first practice session was scheduled to get underway at Albert Park.
“At 9am today the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) was advised by Formula 1 of their intention to cancel all Formula 1 activity at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix,” the AGPC said in a statement.
“In light of this decision and updated advice this morning from the Chief Health Officer of the Victorian Government’s Department of Human and Health Services, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirms the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is cancelled immediately.”
The positive test at McLaren followed four crew members of fellow Formula One team Haas being quarantined due to the outbreak.
“The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities,” McLaren said in a statement.
“The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine. The team is cooperating with the relevant local authorities to assist their investigations and analysis.”
Both Haas and McLaren are Britain-based teams.
Victoria-based general practitioner, Dr Vyom Sharma, said the racing team’s decision to withdraw from the event was commendable as the risk of community spread of the virus remains.
“McLaren have done the right thing,” Dr Sharma told HuffPost Australia.
The doctor at QV Clinic in Melbourne said he was also concerned about the Australian Grand Prix going ahead at all, as “we are risking the greatest public health disaster in Victoria’s history”.
Dr Sharma’s comments came after a series of medical and health experts expressed similar concerns about the racing event.
“The risk is that there may be some community transmission happening in Melbourne and that appears to already be the case from what we can see,” Melbourne anaesthetist Pieter Peach told The Age.
“The probability is that some of those people will attend the event and shed the virus and pass it on. The ultimate risk is that what this will do is increase the number of people that are already presenting to our hospitals with severe respiratory infections.”
Earlier on Thursday Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said it was “shocking” that the Australian Grand Prix could go ahead amid the threat of the coronavirus and suggested organisers had put financial concerns ahead of people’s health.
At this stage the Bahrain Grand Prix will be held on March 22 and will have no spectators on site, a decision made by organisers in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled for April, has been postponed.
Reporting by Ian Ransom and Rohith Nair.