MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Australian women’s soccer team are still preparing for a trip to Wuhan for Olympic qualifiers early next month despite concerns about an outbreak of the new coronavirus in the Chinese city, head coach Ante Milicic has said.
Nine people are confirmed to have died and as many as 440 infected from the new SARS-like coronavirus now spreading across China after an outbreak in the central city of Wuhan.
Australia are scheduled to play matches in Wuhan against Taiwan on Feb. 3, Thailand three days later and China on Feb. 9.
Concerns about the outbreak have prompted Taiwan’s football association to request a change of venue and it said it would not send its team to Wuhan.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Wednesday it was monitoring the situation.
Australia has issued a travel warning for Wuhan, asking visitors to “exercise a high degree of caution”.
Milicic said he had “full confidence” in the advice given to them from authorities including national governing body Football Federation Australia and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
“As a coach we will always put the wellbeing of our players and staff first,” he told local media at a training camp in Sydney late on Tuesday.
“I know we have got experts involved and they are monitoring the situation and they are in close contact not only with the people in China but the AFC and FIFA.”
Taiwan, where one case of the coronavirus has been detected, has called on people not to visit Wuhan unless they absolutely have to.
Taiwan’s football association said on Wednesday the sports administration had asked the AFC in December to change the location due to fears about the health of players.
If the venue was not changed then Taiwan’s team would not participate, the association added.
Fears of a pandemic similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that started in China and killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003 have roiled global markets, with aviation and luxury goods stocks hit particularly hard and the Chinese yuan tumbling.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Additional reporting by Felice Wu and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing Peter Rutherford