Cycling - French teams in Abu Dhabi hotel leave quarantine sooner than expected

DUBAI (Reuters) - Two French cycling teams confined to a luxury Abu Dhabi hotel due to coronavirus concerns left quarantine on Sunday, state news agency WAM reported, a week before an initial date set by the Gulf state's health authorities.

Members of the French teams Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ as well as Russian outfit Gazprom -- including 18 riders -- had been confined to the fourth floor of the W Abu Dhabi Hotel since Feb. 27. Last week, they were instructed to remain in quarantine until March 14.

Emirati authorities ordered the lockdown of the Crown Plaza in Yas Island and the nearby W hotel after two Italian participants involved in last month's UAE Tour were suspected of contracting coronavirus.

Tests carried out on members of the Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ teams, including their administrative and technical staff, were negative and showed they are not infected by the virus, WAM reported, citing a statement from the UAE Tour's organising committee.

The two teams have been cleared and allowed to leave the country and return to France, it said.

Organisers are still working with authorities on the remaining teams, to ensure they are coronavirus free before lifting the quarantine, WAM added.

"We are already at the airport, going home," a member of Cofidis team told Reuters on Sunday morning.

The W Abu Dhabi Hotel confirmed that some guests have been allowed to leave but others will remain in quarantine as per directions of the UAE's health authorities.

"We will resume normal operations as soon we have clearance from the health authorities,” a spokesperson of the hotel said, declining to give more details, referring questions to local authorities.

The health ministry said last week that six new cases of coronavirus relating to the cycling event had been discovered. They were identified as Russian, Italian, German and Colombian nationals but it was not clear if they had been confined to W Abu Dhabi hotel.

The Crowne Plaza hotel said the lockdown of its premises ended on Feb 29.

A manager of the Cofidis team threatened to go on hunger strike on Tuesday if authorities did not allow his team to leave the country.

The UAE, a regional business hub and major transit point for passengers travelling to China and other destinations in Asia, said the number of coronavirus infected cases in the country had risen to 27.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Toby Davis)

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