Coronavirus: Singapore Open to feature China badminton stars who will comply with travel restrictions

(From left) Top Chinese shuttlers Chen Long, Chen Yufei and Lin Dan will be attending the Singapore Open, which will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from April 7 to 12, 2020. PHOTOS: AFP, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Fans of top Chinese shuttlers Chen Long, Lin Dan and women's world No.1 Chen Yufei will still be able to catch them in action at the Singapore Open next month, despite Singapore barring entry to visitors with travel history to mainland China in the last 14 days due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to event organisers Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), 38 players, 11 coaches and seven officials from China will travel here for the US$408,000 (S$566,800) tournament, which will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from April 7 to 12.

The Singapore authorities on Jan 31 announced measures to restrict entry for visitors from mainland China to curb the spread of the Covid-19 disease, including suspending its status as a visa-free transit facility for those with Chinese passports.

As of Wednesday (March 4), the restrictions have been extended to those who travelled to South Korea, northern Italy and Iran within the last 14 days.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, an SBA spokesman said: "We recognise the restrictions the Singapore authorities have placed on visitors from mainland China due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Fourteen days prior to the teams' arrival, two individuals from Team China will be coming from Beijing and the rest will be arriving from Europe or Malaysia."

ST understands the two individuals are coaches, and SBA said they will "adhere to the ICA's (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority) recommendations and decisions" on the duo.

"Should Chinese players and personnel have their visa application denied, they will need to pull out of the tournament," added the spokesman.

The epidemic has infected more than 93,000 and killed around 3,200 worldwide, with China the hardest hit at over 80,000 cases and close to 3,000 deaths.

It has wreaked havoc on sporting events across Asia, Middle East and Europe, with doubts now looming over the July 24 to Aug 9 Tokyo Olympics.

In Singapore, a number of high profile sports events have been called off or postponed, including the HSBC Women's World Championship golf tournament, HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens and the International Champions Cups which was expected to feature English football giants Liverpool, Manchester United and Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

A number of badminton events have also followed suit, with this week's German Open canned, while an Olympic qualifier in Vietnam was postponed from March to June and will no longer serve as a qualifying event for the Games. The China Masters and Polish Open have also been rescheduled.

The Badminton Asia Championships, originally scheduled in the Covid-19 outbreak's epicentre Wuhan from April 21 to 26, will go ahead on the planned dates after it was moved to Manila.

While the Singapore Open will proceed next month, the SBA said this week that it would be implementing enhanced precautionary measures to ensure the safety of players, spectators and event personnel. These include temperature checks and increased frequency of disinfecting the venue and common areas.

"We are confident of presenting a safe, anxiety-free and exhilarating edition of the Singapore Badminton Open," said its spokesman.

A star-studded roster of players is expected to compete at the Singapore Open, including India's first world champion P.V. Sindhu, reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain and Thailand's former world champion Ratchanok Intanon.

While the SBA did not reveal ticket sales figures, the event organiser said it was aiming to build on last year's spectator number of 20,000, adding that "ticket sales have been good and we are tracking well for 2020".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.