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Formula One: Bahrain Grand Prix closed to spectators due to virus

In this Feb. 28, 2020 file photo, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco steers his car during the Formula One pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) -- Formula One's Bahrain Grand Prix has been closed to spectators due to the global virus outbreak, but won't be postponed like the Chinese round of the championship.

    Organizers said having crowds at the March 22 race would have undermined "aggressive social distancing measures" used in Bahrain to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes the Covid-19 disease. Discouraging people from gathering in large crowds can prevent the virus from spreading.

    "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," organizers said in a statement.

    The F1 season is set to begin with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15. China was scheduled to hold the fourth race of the season on April 19, but that was postponed due to the virus outbreak and no new date has been set.

    The Bahraini organizers' decision comes as the wider sporting world battles turmoil caused by the virus.

    Serie A soccer games resume Sunday in empty stadiums amid strict anti-virus measures in Italy, while a French league game between Strasbourg and Paris Saint-Germain was postponed from its scheduled date Saturday. Japan's Spring Grand Sumo Tournament started Sunday without spectators.

    The Alpine skiing World Cup Finals, Italian cycling races and the women's ice hockey world championships have all been canceled.

    British sporting events could soon be held without spectators, with a meeting between sports bodies, broadcasters and the government set to take place on Monday.

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