PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. -- The women's world curling championship in Prince George, B.C., joined the expanding list of COVID-19 cancellations in the sports world Thursday.

The 13-country championship was scheduled to start Saturday at the CN centre.

All three major winter sport world championship scheduled to be held in Canada in March have been scrapped because of concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, now called a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

The world women's hockey championship in Nova Scotia was called off Saturday and the world figure skating championships in Montreal were taken off the schedule Wednesday.

“It's with regret we're announcing it is no longer possible to run this world championship,” World Curling Federation president Kate Caithness said in a statement Thursday.

“However, the safety of our athletes, officials, staff and supporters is paramount which we cannot guarantee with the fast-evolving nature of this worldwide situation.”

B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and minister of health Adrian Dix confirmed in a joint statement they recommended to the WCF that the women's tournament be postponed.

“We understand what the championship means to the athletes who have trained hard to compete, but the health of British Columbians is our first priority,” the statement said.

Kerri Einarson's women's curling team from Manitoba was to represent Canada in Prince George after winning the national championship Feb. 23 in Moose Jaw, Sask.

A decision has yet to be made on the men's world championship March 28 to April 5 in Glasgow, Scotland or April's world mixed doubles and senior championships in Kelowna, B.C.

But Brad Gushue was not at all confident his team will represent Canada in Glasgow.

Gushue, third Mark Nichols and front end Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker won the Canadian championship last Sunday in Kingston, Ont.

“My gut is probably tell me it's not going to go,” the skip told The Canadian Press from St. John's, N.L.

“We've just seen a report in Scotland they're advising events over 500 people to cancel. That's straight from their government which doesn't seem like a very good sign.”

This year's Tim Hortons Brier field in Kingston, Ont., was touted as the best ever, which made winning it feel like a Herculean effort.

“As difficult as it is to get the chance to represent Canada at a world curling championship, to have it taken away from you by an anomaly, a crazy generational kind of event, it just seems like all the good luck you had to win the Brier kind of went away,” Gushue said.

His foursome won a world title in 2017 in Edmonton and earned silver the following year in Las Vegas. The men were going to compete for a world title in Europe for the first time.

“You've got to respect if they're making the decision to cancel, that it's warranted and it's in everybody's best interest and safety,” he said. “You certainly appreciate that and are thankful for it, but it still doesn't mean it doesn't suck.”

The NHL joined the NBA Thursday in suspending the regular season while Major League Baseball cancelled spring training and delayed the start of the regular season by two weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2020.