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Japan’s J-League postpones cup games over virus

Tokyo (AFP) – Japan’s J-League postponed its cup competition on Tuesday over the deadly coronavirus, which has affected dozens of sports events across the globe.

The football league postponed seven cup games scheduled for Wednesday, and said it will discuss suspending all matches until March 15.

“J-League will provide its maximum cooperation for the prevention of the spread (of the virus) and anti-infection measures,” a statement said.

The football leagues in China, the epicentre of the outbreak, and South Korea have been suspended, while some games in Italy will be played behind closed doors.

On Monday, a panel of medical experts advising Japan’s government warned the coming weeks will be a “critical” period to preventing the new coronavirus from spreading out of control.

Japan’s health minister has already urged people to avoid crowds and unnecessary gatherings, and the government has called for businesses to encourage teleworking and off-peak commuting.

The latest decision was made as the clock ticks closer to the Tokyo Olympics, which start in five months’ time on July 24.

Organisers have repeatedly stressed that the Games will not be cancelled or rescheduled despite mounting fears over the spread of COVID-19.

Training for Olympic volunteers was suspended over the weekend, and the Tokyo marathon on March 1 has been closed to all but elite runners.

At least 156 people diagnosed with new coronavirus in Japan, along with nearly 700 on a cruise ship that was quarantined off the country for two weeks.

Four people who became ill on the ship have died. Domestically Japan has reported one fatality linked to the virus.

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