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Everton’s tour of China scheduled for May is in doubt due to the outbreak of the flu-like SARS virus.

The English club has established links with China in the last 12 months, signing World Cup player Li Tie and being sponsored by Chinese mobile phone maker Kejian.They were due to play two games on May 23 and May 25 in Shenzhen in the Guangdong province of China where the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was first identified.

SARS has spread throughout Asia killing 78 people and infecting over 2000.

“There is no way that we would sanction a trip, which would place anyone’s health in jeopardy,” said Everton spokesman Ian Ross on the club’s website.

“Clearly, there is a problem at the moment. We are monitoring the situation and we have already been in contact with the relevant authorities.

“As ever, we shall take advice and be guided by the experts. If we are told that it would be unsafe to travel out to China then the trip will be cancelled. That would, of course, represent a major disappointment but it comes down to a question of basic priorities.

“We hope to be in a position to make a decision within the next 10 days.”

Everton are due to play Shandong on May 23 and Shenzhen on May 25. English club Aston Villa are also involved in the four-team tournament.

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