Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday warned country's athletes to be extra cautious in the wake of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying they should avoid shaking hands and close contact while mingling with people.
"I advise our sportspersons and common citizens also to be careful while mingling with various people. For sometime, it's absolutely not necessary to shake hands or hug," Rijiju tweeted. "We can manage with our traditional Namaste, Salaam, Jai Hind and many local words for greetings!"
The government had said that the health of athletes must take precedence as it advised the National Sports Federations (NSFs) to exercise caution while planning foreign competitions and training stints in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
In India, 29 positive cases have been reported so far, including 16 Italian tourists. World over, the virus has claimed over 3,000 lives besides infecting more than 90,000 people. In an advisory issued by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to all the NSFs on Wednesday, it said the athletes' health comes first.
"... In light of the outbreak of the Coronavirus in several countries, including some reported cases in India, the Government has advised all National Sports Federations to exercise caution while planning foreign competitions and training for teams and individual athletes," the SAI said in the advisory.
The extraordinary situation has forced either cancellation or postponement of many sporting events across the world in the Olympic year and the SAI said while it understands the importance of the year, it also wants the federations to follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. While India is scheduled to host a shooting World Cup from March 15, a FIBA 3x3 basketball Olympic qualifying tournament was on Wednesday postponed owing to the deadly disease that has affected many countries.