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Japan suspends football over virus as Olympics loom

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AFP – Japan suspended its football league on Tuesday, making it the latest sporting victim of the deadly coronavirus with just five months to go before the Tokyo Olympics.

All J-League and cup games were postponed until mid-March as Japan joined China and South Korea in putting domestic football on hold in a bid to stem the outbreak.

“J-League made a big decision over the spread of infections of the new coronavirus,” the league’s chairman Mitsuru Murai told a news conference.

“We have decided to postpone Levain Cup games scheduled for tomorrow and all the official games… scheduled until March 15.”

On Monday, a medical panel advising Japan’s government warned the coming weeks will be “critical” in preventing the outbreak from spreading out of control.

At least 156 people have tested positive for the virus in Japan, along with nearly 700 on a cruise ship that was quarantined off the country for two weeks.

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

Japan’s tally is a fraction of the tens of thousands of cases and nearly 2,700 deaths seen in China, where the epidemic emerged in the central city of Wuhan.

But the advance of COVID-19 is raising concerns about the Tokyo Olympics, which are expected to attract millions of spectators and tourists.

Training for Olympic volunteers was suspended over the weekend, and Sunday’s Tokyo marathon has been closed to all but elite runners.

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