(Reuters) - China has withdrawn as host of a four-nation women's Olympic qualifying tournament next month because of concerns about the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the country, Asian soccer officials said on Sunday.
The qualifying group matches, involving Australia, Taiwan, Thailand and China, would be moved to Sydney, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said in a statement.
"The AFC has been informed by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) that it is withdrawing as host of the women's Olympic football tournament Tokyo 2020 Asian qualifiers final round -- Group B in Nanjing," the confederation said.
"Therefore, the AFC worked with the Football Federation Australia (FFA) and has nominated Sydney in Australia as the replacement host for the group.
"The CFA said that it was taking the decision to withdraw because of the current situation of coronavirus in the People's Republic of China."
On Sunday, China said the death toll from the virus had risen to 56 and that 1,975 people had been infected.
The newly-identified virus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan, which was the original host of next month's round-robin Olympic qualifying matches.
Last week, the Feb. 3-9 games were moved to Nanjing, before China's decision to withdraw.
FFA Chairman Chris Nikou said he was pleased that Australia could step in to host the six matches.
"The safety of all players, officials and fans is of paramount importance to FFA and the AFC, and we are confident we will host a successful tournament here in Sydney," he added.
The FFA said the match schedule would be announced soon.
The winners and runners-up from Group B will go into playoffs against the top two teams from Group A, containing South Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam, for the final two places, alongside hosts Japan, at the Tokyo Olympics in July and August.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)