Coronavirus: France bans public gatherings, Geneva Motor Show canceled

Coronavirus: France bans large public gatherings, Geneva Motor Show canceled

France is banning all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to slow the spread of a coronavirus epidemic. Authorities shut down France's Louvre Museum on Sunday, with workers who guard its trove of art works fearful of being contaminated by the museum's flow of visitors from around the world. Switzerland bans gatherings of 1,000 or more people.

The cancellation of large gatherings in confined spaces was announced by French Health Minister Olivier Véran after special government meetings Saturday. Across the country, "all gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces will be cancelled," the health minister said. The same goes for events "in an open environment where people can mix with others from areas where the virus is possibly circulating". Having previously recommended that people avoid shaking hands, the minister said they should also cut back on “la bise,” the custom in France and elsewhere in Europe of giving greetings with kisses, or air kisses, on the cheeks.

A short statement from the Louvre said a staff meeting about virus prevention efforts stopped the museum from opening as scheduled Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon, would-be visitors were still waiting to get inside.

The tightened restrictions on public gatherings had an immediate impact. A major four-day trade show in Cannes for property investors was postponed from March to June. Accordingly, the Paris half-marathon scheduled for Sunday will not take place, although Ligue 1 football matches will still go ahead.

"These measures are provisional and we will undoubtedly have to modify them over time," Véran continued. "They are restrictive measures and we hope that they last for some time because that would allow us to contain the spread of the virus."

Public gatherings are being banned completely in the Oise region north of Paris that has seen a cluster of cases, and in a town in the Alps that has also seen infections, he said. People can "do their shopping" but must avoid "unnecessary travel" and "work from home if possible", Véran continued.

Véran said there were 16 new cases of coronavirus in France, taking to 73 the number of people affected since the end of January. Two people have died, a 60-year-old French teacher and an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.

The 2020 Geneva Motor Show was canceled after the Swiss government banned gatherings of 1,000 people or more on Friday due to concerns over the coronavirus. The ban was effective immediately and runs at least until 15th March. The 90th edition of GIMS was scheduled to start next week.

“We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors’ top priority. This is a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva. However, we are convinced that they will understand this decision,” said motor show chairman Maurice Turrettini in a statement. Tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded.

The Geneva Motor Show isn’t the biggest car show in the world, but it’s the one where automakers typically like to announce their flashiest, most future-facing vehicles and concepts. Last year we saw the debut of “megacars” like the Koenigsegg Jesko, VW’s electric dune buggy concept, and the Pininfarina Battista, one of the fastest electric vehicles on the planet.

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