The FIA says it is ready to take "any action" necessary to protect the motor racing community, as questions grow about whether the coronavirus outbreak in China will force the Chinese Grand Prix to be cancelled.

The escalating situation in China, with 170 deaths and 7700 cases of infection now confirmed, has grabbed the world's attention as responses grow to try to contain the outbreak.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will meet on Thursday to consider whether the virus now constitutes a global health emergency.

This week, the UK Foreign Office warned against all non-essential travel to China, and already a number of major sporting events due to take place in the country have been cancelled.

Most recently, the World Indoor Athletics Championship, which was due to take place in Nanjing from March 13-15, have been postponed.

Formula E is due to hold a race in Sanya on March 21, while the Chinese GP is scheduled to take place in Shanghai on April 19.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the FIA said that its evaluation of the situation was being led by its medical chief professor Gerard Saillant.

"Following the coronavirus epidemic that broke out in China at the beginning of the year, the FIA is closely monitoring the evolving situation with relevant authorities and its Member Clubs, under the direction of FIA Medical Commission President, Professor Gerard Saillant," it said.

"The FIA will evaluate the calendar of its forthcoming races and, if necessary, take any action required to help protect the global motor sport community and the wider public."

In theory, any decision to cancel the Chinese GP would need to come from the race promoter in Shanghai first.