The Confederation of African Football has suspended the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers originally scheduled for the FIFA break at the end of this month and early April until further notice due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
This comes in the wake of the World Health Organisation declaring the outbreak as a pandemic with the number of new infections growing exponentially around the world and in spite of the African continent seeing the least number of reported cases.
Early this week, CAF had insisted that its fixtures would go ahead as scheduled, but on Friday, the body issued a statement announcing the suspension.
The statement read: "As CAF's top priority remains the health and safety of our stakeholders (players, officials, sponsors, broadcasters, employees, etc.), we have been monitoring closely, together with our medical committee, the impact of the current coronavirus crisis and accordingly:
- Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by WHO
- In Africa, only a few cases have been reported, but the situation could evolve negatively
- Several players, who are supposed to play the next AFCON qualifiers, come from countries which have been severely affected by the virus (Europe, Asia)
- Several African governments have taken strong restrictions on travels: lock down, quarantine for people coming from countries affected by the virus
- Several clubs refuse now to release their players for the next international matches
"For the above reasons and after studying carefully the current situation, CAF has decided to postpone the Total Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers scheduled from 25 to 31 March."
At least six African countries had announced serious restrictions on international travel prior to CAF's announcement.
Kenya, Tunisia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Morocco and Uganda restricted travel in and out, especially from European countries.
Cameroon went one step further to request that visa applications include a coronavirus test.
At the last count, there have been less than 200 confirmed cases on the African continent, but many governments are taking no chances.