MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The International Tennis Federation has moved a regional Fed Cup qualifying event out of China because of concerns over the outbreak of a viral illness that has already caused 56 deaths.
The ITF issued a statement Sunday saying the Asia/Oceania Group 1 event scheduled for Feb. 4-8 in Dongguan, China, would now be played at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
“The decision to move the event to a different venue was taken due to increasing travel restrictions in China and followed consultation with independent security advisers,” the ITF said in the statement.
The Fed Cup is an international women’s tennis team event. Teams from China, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Uzbekistan were set to play at Dongguan. The top two teams will earn promotion to the Fed Cup playoffs in April.
The U.S. Consulate in the city at the epicenter announced it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight.
China’s health minister said the country was entering a “crucial stage” as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”
President Xi Jinping on Saturday called the outbreak a grave situation and said the government was stepping up efforts to restrict travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to the city at the center of the crisis, Wuhan, which remains on lockdown with no flights, trains or buses allowed in or out.