Escalating travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak have resulted in the MotoGP class cancelling its planned season-opening round in Qatar next weekend.

However, the Moto2 and Moto3 classes will still go ahead as planned since all riders and teams are already in Qatar, having concluded their final pre-season test at the same Losail circuit earlier today (Sunday).

MotoGP had previously arranged an exemption from some of Qatar's increasing entry restrictions for passengers from Italy and Japan.

However, Qatar, which announced its first recorded case of coronavirus yesterday, is now imposing a blanket two-week quarantine on any passengers that have recently visited Italy.

An FIM Statement read:

'Due to Qatar travel restrictions brought into force affecting passengers from Italy (amongst other countries), the premier class will not race at Losail

'FIM, IRTA and Dorna regret to announce the cancellation of all MotoGP class sessions at the Grand Prix of Qatar, including the race.

'The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has resulted in Qatar travel restrictions being brought into force that affect passengers from Italy, amongst other countries. As of today, all passengers arriving at Doha on direct flights from Italy, or having been in Italy in the past 2 weeks, will be taken straight to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Italy clearly plays a vital role in the Championship and in the MotoGP class - both on track and off - and therefore the decision has been taken to cancel premier class competition.

'As the teams and riders of the Moto2 and Moto3 classes were already in Qatar for the three-day official test at Losail International Circuit earlier this week, the races of both categories will be possible. The lightweight and intermediate classes will therefore compete in their season opener from the 6th to 8th March. The same will apply to the Asia Talent Cup, which will have two races during the Qatar Grand Prix as originally planned. Stay tuned for a revised schedule.'

There are unconfirmed rumours that round two in Thailand, due to take place from March 20-22, could be postponed until later in the season while a question mark also hangs over COTA (April 3-5) and Argentina (April 17-19).

As was the case with Qatar, much will depend on any entry restrictions (or a ban on large gatherings) imposed by the Thai, US and Argentinean governments.

Thailand is keen for Buriram to go ahead to help its battered tourism industry albeit with 'rigorous screening' of spectators and teams, but might the US (69 coronavirus cases) take a dim view of passengers that have recently been in either Italy (1,128 cases) or Thailand (42)? Argentina is yet to record a case.

Logistics could also be an issue, with some personnel from Italian teams Ducati and Aprilia unable to enter Qatar to help pack their equipment (already at Losail following the MotoGP test) and send it on to Thailand.

As such, it would not be a shock if the first MotoGP race is not until the start of the European season at Jerez, due to be held in early May. Unless the event is moved forwards to fill a void in the revised calendar...

It is assumed that any grand prix would be immediately shut down by the authorities if a case of coronavirus was discovered among the crowd or paddock during an event, but the scale of the resulting quarantine is unclear.

Although no mention was made of the Qatar World Superbike round, since it is only one week after the MotoGP it seems inevitable that it will be (at best) postponed.

UPDATE: The Thai MotoGP has now been 'postponed indefinitely'.

 

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