The women's world hockey championship in Halifax and Truro, N.S., has been cancelled due to concerns over the spreading coronavirus, International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel has told The Associated Press.

The tournament had been scheduled to start on March 31.

Fasel told the AP concerns were raised regarding the health of players and fans attending the tournament in light of the global spread of the virus. Hockey Canada was in the process of informing its officials and partners of the cancellation.

Fasel noted the difficulties some of the eight nations will encounter in simply making travel plans, such as Japan, where almost all sports events and large gatherings have been cancelled.

"It's scary," Fasel said.

This marks the second time the women's worlds have been cancelled. The 2003 tournament scheduled for Beijing was called off because of the SARS outbreak in China.

The women's world curling championship, slated to start next weekend in Prince George, B.C., and world figure skating championships, scheduled for March 16-22 in Montreal, were still on as of Saturday.

The cancellation of the marquee women's hockey competition is the latest blow to the sport.

The Canadian Women's Hockey League abruptly shut down operations in April, leaving the U.S.-based National Women's Hockey League as the only pro league in North America.

More than 200 of the top women players then formed the Professional Women's Hockey Association and pledged not to compete professionally in North America this season in a bid to form a league that pays them a livable wage and provides health care.

Fasel said the status of other upcoming international hockey tournaments will be determined in the coming month, starting with the under-18 men's championships in Michigan from April 16-26. Fasel said a decision regarding that tournament likely will be made within 10 days.

And the IIHF will await until mid-April to determine whether to proceed with the men's world championships set to open May 8 in Switzerland.

"For sure, we are concerned and we are monitoring this," Fasel said.

The virus has led to the NHL and NBA considering taking precautionary measures.

On Friday, the NHL issued a memo to its teams urging players to limit contact with fans. The move followed a similar directive this month by the NBA, which has told its players to stop high-fiving fans and strangers, and avoid taking items for autographs.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday at the close of the annual general managers meetings in Florida that he's ordered a halt to all business-related travel outside North America for league employees.

The escalating virus outbreak has played havoc with numerous sporting events across Europe and Asia with games being cancelled or played without spectators.

The Russian national women's football team is facing quarantine after playing a game in Germany. Saudi Arabia announced there would be no spectators for competitions starting Saturday.

The Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan has not reported any virus cases but is cancelling sports events as a precaution "until the situation stabilizes," the State Agency for Youth, Fitness and Sports said in a statement.

Central Asian governments have been wary of the virus spreading. The Asian weightlifting championships, a key Olympic qualifier, were called off Friday. They were to have been hosted by Uzbekistan next month.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2020.