NEW YORK (AP) β€” The Overwatch League is relocating scheduled esports matches from three cities in China to Seoul due to the outbreak of a virus which has killed nearly 1,400 people.

The OWL postponed matches scheduled in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou for February and March two weeks ago due to the virus known as COVID-19. It announced Friday that those matches will be played at a studio in Seoul in mid-March.

The league said in a statement it made the decision β€œin order to protect the health and safety of our fans, players, and staff.”

This is the first year for OWL's unprecedented global schedule including host matches for its 20 city-based franchises in Asia, North America and Europe. The league has four Chinese teams and had expected fan turnout to be strong in China, which has a passionate Overwatch player and fan base.

The league opened its third season last weekend with matches in New York and Dallas. For the first two seasons, all franchises were based near Los Angeles for nearly all practices and matches.

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