SEOUL-Table tennis’ world team championships, due to take place next month in the South Korean city of Busan, were postponed on Tuesday following a leap in novel coronavirus cases.

The International Table Tennis Federation said the event, originally planned for March 22-29, had been provisionally rescheduled for June 21-28 following an emergency meeting with local organizers.

South Korea’s K-league had already postponed the start of the new soccer season on Monday as the virus causes chaos to the country’s sporting calendar.

Volleyball, basketball and handball have taken similar measures as confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 977 in South Korea, with 10 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon.

“In light of the emerging situation in Korea Republic and to best preserve the health and safety of players, officials and fans, the Hana Bank 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan have been postponed with the dates of 21-28 June provisionally reserved,” said an ITTF statement.

“By continuing to work hard and in close cooperation with all stakeholders in Busan, the ITTF remains confident about putting on a great world championships in June.”

The coronavirus has had a serious impact on sports events worldwide, with soccer matches in Italy, China and Japan called off, as well as the postponements of Formula One’s Chinese Grand Prix, the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and elite women’s LPGA golf tournaments in Thailand, Singapore and China.

The Korean Volleyball Federation said it would hold matches behind closed doors until “an improvement in the situation”.

The Women’s Korean Basketball League took a similar decision last week and offered fans full refunds.

And the Korea Handball Federation cut its season short, cancelling the playoffs and finals.

The virus has infected over 80,000 people around the world, including more than 77,000 in China. China’s death toll reached 2,663 on Tuesday.

More than 2,000 cases and 30 deaths have been reported outside China.

The outbreak has had a major impact on the global sporting calendar, with a host of events canceled or postponed, and raised alarm bells for Tokyo Olympics organizers.

AGENCIES

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