Melbourne Grand Prix chiefs monitor coronavirus, leave race fate with government

Australian Grand Prix organisers are planning for the F1 spectacular to go ahead at Albert Park next month despite warnings from Victoria's health chief that "all options", including cancellation, would be considered in the event of an outbreak of the coronavirus in Australia.

Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott on Wednesday acknowledged that the fate of the race, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Melbourne, was in the hands of the federal government and the nation's top doctors.

Valtteri Bottas won the 2019 Australian Grand Prix for Mercedes.Credit:AP

The risks are low, says Westacott, but he accepts the AGPC and the sport of Formula One are just one part of a global medical jigsaw in which concerns over public health will ultimately dictate what decision-makers do.

"It's much broader than a question for us and F1. We take guidance from the chief medical officers in Australia and ultimately from government," Westacott said.

"Government and health officers will look at things medically and economically and assess risk. Everything we do in motor sport is risk assessment.

"We will take our guidance and lead from the health authorities and fall into line with their instructions. We have to be open-minded."

On Tuesday, Victoria's chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton told 3AW's Neil Mitchell: "If it’s a very mild pandemic, like the 2009 flu pandemic, then you don’t need really significant action.

“But if it’s severe and we need to do absolutely everything possible to reduce the peak, reduce the number of cases, then we have to keep all options open.

"These huge events are planned for months and months in advance and I think it would take some extraordinary activity of the coronavirus in Australia to cancel something like this at this stage.

“I think it’s almost certain to go ahead."

Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott, an authority in health security at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, says it is impossible to say how to manage a major sporting event such as the Grand Prix as the coronavirus epidemic is such a fluid event.

"If it was just Australians attending the event, then it would probably be a negligible or no-risk event, but the issue we don't know is how the virus will spread and what will happen in the next couple of weeks.

"It's too early to make a judgement call because everything is moving too quickly. If the countries where the outbreaks have happened are able to contain them then it probably won't be too much of a problem, but we don't know what will happen.

"But there are ways to hold mass gatherings to minimise risk.

"You could have more room between seats so that people could maintain a distance of one to two metres. You can ensure that there is ready access to hand sanitisers throughout the area. And you can put on additional public transport so that people are not all going to be congregating in small areas."

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