The sporting world has recently been struck by a new arrival on the scene, Coronavirus.
Since the Chinese government broke records by placing the entire city of Wuhan in quarantine, the virus has had the tongues of every news outlet wagging despite many sources pointing out that, whilst as of January 30th the number of infected people surpassed SARS, it is relatively non-lethal.
The current death toll stands at just 2% of infected people, 80% of whom were over 60, and 75% of whom are believed to have had prior health conditions that impacted their resistance to the virus.
But how might Coronavirus affect athletes pushing themselves to the peak of their physical ability.
While exercise in moderation is commonly thought to enhance the performance of the immune system, former Olympian and lecturer of sport science at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor Greg Whyte, suggested intense exercise over several days could do the opposite.
“It’s true that people who are regular exercisers tend to have a lower incidence of illness and disease, including coughs and colds, but we also know that arduous exercise, such as marathon running or obstacle course racing, dampens the function of the immune system for about three days afterwards,” Whyte told the Telegraph in 2016.
Besides the vulnerability of athletes, there is also the spectators to consider. People fly out from all around the world to watch sporting events, gather in large numbers in crowded places, and fly home again. It sounds like the perfect breeding ground for the spread of disease.
With this in mind, several international sporting events scheduled to take place in China this year have been under review.
Most recently, the World Indoor Athletics Championships have been postponed until 2021 by World Athletics because of the outbreak.
The championships were due to take place on the 13-15 March this year in Nanjing, approximately 370 miles from Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic.
Prior to this, the Great Britain’s women’s Olympic basketball qualifying tournament was transferred from Foshan, around 621 miles from Wuhan, to Serbia, and the women’s Olympic football Group B qualifying matches for Australia, China, Taiwan, and Thailand were initially transferred from Wuhan to Nanjing and then to Sydney, Australia.
Currently, Formula 1, and the governing body FIA, are discussing the advisability of holding this year’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, scheduled for April 19.
Even though the city is 433 miles east of Wuhan, the Shanghai Health Commission is currently dealing with 66 cases of the virus, one of which has already ended in fatality, and two more of which are in a critical condition.
Dr Sergio Brusin of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, located in Stockholm, explained that the virus was unlikely to go away anytime soon.
“The virus is still spreading, there is no doubt about it,” he told the Guardian. “We are in it for the long run. It is not something that is going to disappear next week, it will be quite a lot of work to contain.
“What happens between now and April is extremely difficult to predict but if the infections keeps on spreading at this pace I would not be optimistic at having an F1 ticket in my pocket.”
The current number of cases of Coronavirus worldwide stands at 28,336, of which 3,863 cases are in a critical condition, and 1,322 cases have made a full recovery.
The virus has systematically begun to spread out of China and into 27 other countries, including the UK and US.
Several countries have evacuated their citizens living overseas in China, and placed travel restrictions and flight bans on people going to/returning from the country.
Currently, the only deaths from the virus outside of China are in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
There have been two recorded cases of the disease in England, but both are now being treated. France currently sits on six cases, while both Germany and the US are dealing with 12, and Japan stands at 45. So far, none of these cases have resulted in fatalities.
With the spread of the virus expected to continue for some time yet, it remains to be seen what impact this will have on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer.