MELBOURNE, Australia -- An online petition to cancel the 2020 Australian Grand Prix amid rising fears about the coronavirus has already garnered 11,000 signatures.
Doubt continues to surround the season-opening Formula One race in Melbourne, particularly after eight team personnel showed signs of the COVID-19 infection between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon [AEDT], all of whom underwent testing. The results of the tests are still unknown.
The petition to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was launched by a concerned citizen who is urging the state government to take a duty of care in regards to the highly contagious disease.
Earlier in the day, the World Health Organization labelled the coronavirus situation a pandemic. There have been over 125,000 reported cases of coronavirus around the world, 4,600 of which have resulted in death. Australia accounts for 139 of the total cases and three deaths.
On Thursday at Albert Park, reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton claimed he was "shocked" and "very surprised" the race weekend hadn't been called off or postponed given the health risks it poses for everyone involved.
"It's a concern I think for the people here," Hamilton said. "It's quite a big circus that's come here and it's definitely concerning for me."
Hamilton's comments came just hours after the NBA had suspended its regular season, following the news that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had contracted the illness.
The petition isn't the first call for the Albert Park race to be scrapped. On Wednesday, a skywriter wrote the message 'STOP F1' in the skies of Sydney. Photographs of the message were widely shared online, but it was unclear who was responsible for it.