Thai MotoGP race postponed indefinitely on coronavirus fears

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The second MotoGP race of the season, which was scheduled to be held in Thailand this month, has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Thai Deputy Prime Minister said on Monday.

The decision to postpone the March 22 Thailand Grand Prix in the northeastern province of Buriram comes a day after this weekend's season-opening race in Qatar was cancelled due to travel restrictions on passengers from Italy and elsewhere.

Six riders in the 22-strong grid of the championship are Italians, while there are a number of engineers and mechanics that hail from the country which has seen a surge of cases.

"The MotoGP (race)... has to be cancelled and postponed to another day and another month depending on the situation," Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also the country's health minister and chairman of the event's organising committee, told reporters.

The race is the latest in a long line of international sporting events affected by the flu-like virus that originated in China late last year and has killed nearly 3,000 people and infected over 86,500 globally.

Thailand has reported 43 cases since January and recorded its first fatality on Sunday.

The MotoGP championship now moves to the United States with next month's Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Formula One, whose season starts in Australia on March 15, has already cancelled its Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for Shanghai on April 19.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok; Writing by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Richard Pullin)

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