Coronavirus latest: events cancelled across globe as outbreak spreads

The coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the globe, with an increasing number of events and conferences cancelled or postponed.

The global death toll from the new coronavirus is now more than 3,000, mostly in China, with more than 88,000 people in more than 60 countries infected.

A further 12 positive tests were seen in the UK over the weekend, as prime minister Boris Johnson said he expected the infection to spread further inside the UK.

“We’ve found about 35 people in this country have, or have had, the illness and clearly there may be more. That is likely now to spread a bit more,” he said.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC over the weekend that the government was considering all options in the event of widespread infection, including the banning of large-scale public events.

Public Health England’s medical director, Paul Cosford, said it was ‘highly likely’ the UK would see more widespread infection and that it may be necessary to reduce social contact.

He added that it was important to maintain a degree of perspective over the outbreak, noting that the vast majority of people make a full recovery and it is a relatively mild illness.

Children and healthy adults appear to be at much lower risk from the virus, with older people and those with severe underlying illnesses more likely to be of particular concern. He reiterated the need for basic hygiene practices such as the washing of hands to prevent the spread of infection.

Reaction across Europe

Switzerland has banned large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people until at least 15 March. The Geneva International Motor Show, one of the world’s largest automotive events attracting more than 500,000 people to the city, has been cancelled with all ticketholders to be refunded. Event director Olivier Rihs said the cancellation could cost the city’s economy up to €250m in lost spending.

France has banned all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people, as part of efforts to contain the outbreak. The final day of Paris’s annual agricultural fair, scheduled for Sunday 1 March, was cancelled. The Paris half-marathon was also called off as part of a ban on events that involve “mingling with people from areas where the virus is prevalent”.

In Germany, the world’s leading travel trade show, ITB Berlin, has been scrapped due to the advice of health authorities. Host venue Messe Berlin said that it was not able to satisfy the health authority’s requirement that each delegate would need to prove that they were not from a designated risk area or had not been in contact with a person or persons from a risk area.

Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin GmbH, said: “With more than 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries ITB Berlin is extremely important for the world’s tourism industry. We take our responsibility for the health and safety of our visitors, exhibitors and employees very seriously. It is with a heavy heart that we must now come to terms with the cancellation of ITB Berlin 2020.”

Italy has seen more than 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest in Europe and the third largest globally. Several trade shows in the country have been cancelled or postponed, including April’s Milan Furniture Fair, which has been pushed back to June, and The International Journalism Festival in Perugia, which has been cancelled.