HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma and Sourabh Verma are among seven Indians to pull out of the All England Open badminton championships beginning on March 11 due to fears over the coronavirus. Doubles specialists Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy have also pulled out.
"We just didn't want to risk it," Prannoy told ESPN. "Some of us had a chat and agreed that travel at this point isn't safe. For me personally, the Olympic cut-off is way off so in that sense I have less to lose. We were hoping the All England would be called off given the current scenario of the virus but since it's going ahead, yesterday I took a call to pull out and texted Gopi sir about my decision."
Apart from the Indian players headed for All England, numerous trainees, including Prannoy and Chirag are logging out of the Gopichand Academy for now and headed to their respective hometowns. Close to the Hyderabad academy in the IT corridor of Gachibowli and Madhapur, two persons have reportedly tested positive for the virus.
"It's not safe right now for us to be at the academy either since there are cases in Gachibowli too, so most of us are headed home," Prannoy said. "My calendar ahead is still uncertain. Right now it's just wait and watch. The situation is pretty bad so we decided to pull out rather than risk travel."
On Wednesday, England's National Health Service declared coronavirus a level four incident -- the highest level emergency preparedness planning. This came in the wake of 87 confirmed cases in the UK. Globally, there have been over 96000 cases and over 3300 deaths due to the COVID-19 so far. While All England authorities said last week that they are 'closely monitoring' the situation, as of now, the tournament is set to go ahead as planned.
"The situation is pretty bad so we decided to pull out rather than risk travel," said Chirag.
As of now, the top ranked Indian players, PV Sindhu and B Sai Praneeth are both expected to take part in the tournament, as is Kidambi Srikanth.