Grim sporting image that sums up growing coronavirus fears

The coronavirus threat seems to be ramping up by the day and its effect on our lives can't be understated.

Australia has seen its supermarket shelves stripped of food and other necessities, while the clamour for toilet paper has reached fever pitch.

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Across the sporting landscape, the threat of the deadly virus is also being profoundly felt, with competitions around the world being postponed or rescheduled.

The English Premier League has banned the traditional pre-match handshakes between players as a precautionary measure to help prevent potential spread of the virus.

Italy has been one of the most affected European countries, with more than 100 deaths attributed to coronavirus and more than 3000 cases registered.

Italy has been hit heavily by the coronavirus. Pic: Getty

As a result, precautions have been particularly high across Italy, where players, officials and media gathered in Cagliari to discuss the Davis Cup tie against South Korea.

It was during that press conference where a scary image has emerged that sums up the coronavirus fear.

The photo paints an eerie scene with players, officials and journalists sitting a considerable distance away from one another.

The unusual occurrence is in line with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) directive to keep a distance of at least one metre away from anyone with flu-like symptoms.

As evidenced by the image, people in Italy are clearly not taking any chances.

The Davis Cup competition has been overshadowed by the global threat of coronavirus spreading, with Italy's tie against South Korea to be played behind closed doors.

Coronavirus cloud hangs over Davis Cup

Defending champions Spain, 2019 runners-up Canada, semi-finalists Great Britain and Russia, as well as wild cards France and Serbia, are already assured of their spots in the Madrid finals in November.

Japan's tie against Ecuador in Miki will also be closed off to spectators.

One tie has already fallen victim with China forfeiting their World Group play-off in Romania.

Injury-hit Japan number one Kei Nishikori said Thursday he had failed to recover from an elbow injury and will sit out his country's tie against Ecuador.

A depleted Japan will also be without world number 48 Yoshihito Nishioka.

Nishioka has opted to return to the United States as a precaution against being quarantined because of the coronavirus outbreak ahead of next week's ATP Tour Masters event in Indian Wells.

President Donald Trump has suggested that the US might consider imposing restrictions on people travelling from Japan because of the virus threat.

India travel to 2005 and 2018 champions Croatia with 46-year-old doubles stalwart Leander Paes in the line-up as his final season as a pro winds down.

Croatia will be led by 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic while India's top player Sumit Nagal is ranked at 127 in the world.

The United States, champions a record 32 times, are also set for an emotional two days in Honolulu against Uzbekistan.

The Bryan brothers Bob and Mike will compete for USA in Davis Cup for the last time. Pic: Getty

Twins Bob and Mike Bryan will play their last Davis Cup tie having already said they will retire for good after the US Open.

Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul and Reilly Opelka are all ranked in the top 60 in singles for the US. Uzbekistan doesn't have one player even in the top 150.

Elsewhere, there will be guaranteed cross-border fireworks in Bogota in the all-South American clay court clash between Colombia and 2016 champions Argentina.

Bratislava sees Slovakia host three-time champions Czech Republic in a first-time meeting for the two neighbours who split into two independent nations in 1993.

"We are like brothers rather than rivals or enemies," Slovak number one Andrej Martin told a news conference. "But you always want to beat your big brother."

Australia, champions on 28 occasions, welcome Brazil to Adelaide but are without Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur, their two top singles players.

John Millman, who lost an agonising five-set clash to Roger Federer at the Australian Open this year, leads the home challenge.

With agencies