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US sports leagues restrict locker room access

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Agence France-Presse

The professional baseball, basketball, soccer and ice hockey leagues in the United States said Monday they will restrict locker room access to players and team officials only in an effort to limit the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

In a joint statement, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League said the decision would go into effect on Tuesday.

“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice,” the statement said.

“Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These temporary changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow’s games and practices.

“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”

US sports leagues are renowned across the world for allowing media to access locker rooms following practices or games, a practice that is unheard of in most sports.

Monday’s announcement comes amid growing concern across the sports world about the threat posed by the COVID-19 virus.

The NBA has already informed teams that playing games in empty arenas may be necessary to help thwart the spread of the disease.

The league has also urged players to limit interactions with fans, advising against taking such items as pens, balls and jerseys to autograph.

On Sunday meanwhile the ATP-WTA Tour’s Indian Wells tennis tournament in Southern California — one of the biggest tournaments in the world outside of the four Grand Slams — was shelved after health authorities confirmed a case of coronavirus in the surrounding area.

The US has recorded at least 26 deaths from the coronavirus and 605 confirmed cases across 35 states, according to a Johns Hopkins tally.