The Swiss government has banned large events of more than 1,000 people as a measure to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, a move expected to force the cancellation of the Geneva international motor show.
The annual show is one of the world’s largest automotive events and last year attracted as many as 600,000 executives and car fans to the city. It was due to take place from 2-15 March.
“In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act,” the cabinet said in a statement on Friday.
“Large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March.”
The ban on large events comes as Europe struggles to contain the epidemic.
Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health has reported 15 cases of the virus, including in the Geneva, Zurich and Basel-City cantons.
Many carmakers had already asked employees from infected areas to avoid travelling to the show.
However, the motor show organisers had sent participants an email as recently as Wednesday, saying that the event would go ahead as planned, despite Switzerland reporting its first case of Covid-19.
On Friday, before the ban was announced, the motor show’s statement said it was “carefully observing the situation” but made no reference to possible cancellation. It also pointed to World Health Organization advice to practice “follow good respiratory hygiene”.