By Kent Gray
The deepening disruption caused by coronavirus across the Middle East has claimed another casualty – golf’s MENA Tour by Arena.
The regional development circuit on Thursday announced it had taken the extraordinary decision to postpone the last six events of the 2020 season, citing “various travel issues caused by the ongoing COVID-19 situation”.
With five events already played, the tour was due to continue in the UAE capital with the new Abu Dhabi Triple Crown championship at Yas Links, Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach from March 16-19.
But the remaining six events will now be rescheduled to September-December. It comes after the Ministry of Health on Wednesday urged Emiratis and expat residents against leaving the country or face airport checks and possible quarantine. The Ministry of Education has also ordered the closure of all schools and universities across the UAE for a month from Sunday as part of the nationwide efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“The MENA Tour by Arena has been closely monitoring all channels of information related to issues involving COVID-19. As an international Tour, the health and safety of our players, staff, venue partners and partners in our paramount goal,” the MENA Tour said is a statement on shared on social media.
“We will endeavour to release the revised schedule by the end of this month. Our current planning is for the revised Tournament schedule for 2020 to neatly flow into the 2021 MENA Tour by Arena season.”
Unfortunately, due to the various travel issues caused by the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the MENA Tour by Arena has decided to postpone the remainder of our 2020 season to September-December. We will post the new schedule as soon as possible. pic.twitter.com/oMJAZHWtYY
— MENA Tour (@theMENATour) March 5, 2020
In a regional sporting context, the MENA Tour is not alone. Cycling’s UCI-sanctioned UAE Tour was abandoned last Thursday after two Italian team officials tested positive for the disease. Six related cases have since been reported while two French teams, Cofidis and Groupama, will remain under quarantine in the UAE until March 14.
Another golf event, The Ladies Open due to be played at Yas Links from March 6-7, has also been postponed.
“As a precautionary and proactive measure, and in conjunction with local authorities, the decision has been made to postpone the Ladies Open at Yas Links Abu Dhabi until further notice,” the tournament announced via social media. “The decision has been taken to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of players, guests and visitors.”