The Geneva auto show is being canceled after the Swiss government announced an immediate ban Friday on all “public and private” events in the country involving more than 1,000 people as a measure to halt the spread of the new coronavirus. The measure will last until at least March 15, officials said. Among the events that will be affected are the annual Geneva International Motor Show, which was due to take place from March 5-15 and draws tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Olivier Rihs, head of the group that organizes the auto show, GIMS Swiss, confirmed to the AP that the show would be canceled.
“We aware that this measure will have a significant impact on public life,” said Switzerland’s interior minister, Alain Berset.
“However, the move is expected to provide effective protection to people in Switzerland and to public health,” he said. “It should prevent or delay the spread of the disease in Switzerland, thus reducing its momentum.”
For events with fewer than 1,000 people, organizers “must carry out a risk assessment in conjunction with the competent cantonal (state) authorities to decide whether or not the event can be held,” the government said Berset said that large offices or public buildings wouldn’t be shut down by the measure.
Switzerland has reported 15 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. It borders northern Italy, which has seen the largest cluster of cases in Europe.
The government defined the outbreak as a “special situation” – the second-highest of three levels in the country’s epidemic law. The highest level, defined as an “extraordinary situation,” would be triggered for an event on the scale of the 1918 Spanish flu.
Aside from the Geneva auto show, affected events include the traditional Carnival procession in Basel, a ski marathon and several soccer matches.
The national Swiss hockey league said all games this weekend will be played behind closed doors, with no fans present. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the ban would also affect meetings at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. The global body has a special extraterritorial status that may exempt it from national health measures.
Rolando Gomez, spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Council, said “well over 1,000 participants” were taking part in a four-week session that began Monday.
The council’s top officials were holding a meeting to determine the impact of the Swiss announcement, he said. “We’ll watch this very closely and we’ll inform you accordingly,” Gomez told a regular U.N. briefing Friday.