In late 2019, an outbreak of pneumonia (Covid-19) caused by a new member of the coronavirus family, known as SARS-CoV-2, was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei province). The virus quickly spread from Wuhan to other Chinese cities and also to other Asian and European countries.
To date, more than 74,000 cases of infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been confirmed, the vast majority of them in China, and 2,100 people have died. Although people of all ages are at risk of contracting the virus, older people and those with pre-existing chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease appear to be more likely to fall seriously ill with it.
The virus’ incubation period (the time between infection and the appearance of the first clinical signs) is currently estimated to be approximately 14 days. However, it is thought that people infected by SARS-CoV-2 may be contagious before they show any clinical signs.
The Covid-19 virus causes a respiratory infection and a fever of over 38°C, in a person who has either travelled or stayed in the province of Hubei in the previous 14 days or who has been in close contact with a confirmed case. Any suspicion of Covid-19 must be confirmed by a doctor, following enquiries as to the patient’s recent trips and the people with whom they have been in contact, and only once the results of specialised laboratory tests have been made available – the sole method of definitively diagnosing the virus. On 30 January, in response to the spread of the epidemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an “international public health emergency”.
This sudden and fast-moving epidemic has also impacted on the sports world. The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which were due to take place in Nanjing, China, on 13-15 March, have been postponed to 2021, the Tour of Hainan has been cancelled, the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix scheduled for 19 April has been postponed, as have Alpine skiing events at the future Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games site at Yanqing (15-16 February), the Hong Kong and Singapore rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series scheduled for April, the Olympic boxing qualification competitions, etc. Sports competitions that attract large numbers of people can provide an environment where there is a risk of contamination, meaning appropriate measures should be taken in response. It is worth noting that the SportAccord 2020 Summit which was to take place in Beijing from 19 to 24 April has also been cancelled for health reasons.
Specific actions are envisaged in two different situations:
1. International competitions taking place in China.
Bearing in mind the potential scale of the epidemic and the data provided on confirmed clinical cases, there are justifiable grounds for postponing all competitions until such time as epidemiological data are more reassuring. The UCI has taken the decision with the Chinese Cycling Association to postpone cycling events originally scheduled for April and May. On March 15, the UCI will communicate the new dates of competitions to be organised later in the season, as well as the list of events that will be cancelled.
2. International competitions taking place outside China and welcoming delegations from countries at risk.
It is important for the UCI to watch over the health of all athletes participating in international races. That is why the UCI underlines the importance of strictly adhering to the recommendations given by the WHO, and the guidelines set out by the national authorities in charge of public health.
With this in mind, the UCI will gather information on the movements and the training locations of the members of these delegations (riders and staff members) in the three weeks leading up to the competition.
Precise information will be given on health measures taken to protect riders and technical staff from risk of contamination
The chief medical officer (CMO) at each event will be in close contact with the health authorities of the country in question, having notified them that the competition is taking place and having enquired as to the specific measures that need to be taken.
The recommendations published by the WHO with a view to reducing the risk of exposure to the 2019-nCoV will be widely published. These recommendations are not specific to 2019-nCoV but apply to all infectious respiratory diseases: wash your hands with soap and water regularly; avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes as far as possible; and sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow or a handkerchief.
The UCI is following the evolution of this epidemic and the potential consequences for the organisation of international competitions on a daily basis. It is also concerned with protecting riders from all risk of contamination and avoiding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to other countries.