PANIC BUYING AND CANCELLATIONS

Growing number of major events put on hold or scrapped

The traditional cherry blossom festivals in Tokyo and Osaka, planned for April, will be called off over coronavirus fears. Google is among the organisations cancelling major events because of the evolving situation caused by the virus outbreak.
The traditional cherry blossom festivals in Tokyo and Osaka, planned for April, will be called off over coronavirus fears. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The traditional cherry blossom festivals in Tokyo and Osaka, planned for April, will be called off over coronavirus fears. Google is among the organisations cancelling major events because of the evolving situation caused by the virus outbreak.
Google is among the organisations cancelling major events because of the evolving situation caused by the virus outbreak.PHOTO: REUTERS

Fear over the coronavirus is reaching fever pitch in the US as more cases surface, with the latest ones reported on Friday in Washington state, Oregon and California

WASHINGTON/TOKYO • A US-Asean summit in Las Vegas scheduled for this month and cherry blossom festivals in Japan are among a growing list of events that have been postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The United States has decided to postpone a meeting with Asean leaders it had planned to host on March 14 owing to worries about the outbreak, two US officials familiar with the matter said on Friday.

US President Donald Trump had invited leaders of the 10-member grouping to meet in Las Vegas after he did not attend a summit with the group in Bangkok last November.

"As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the United States, in consultation with Asean partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the Asean leaders meeting," a US senior administration official told Reuters.

The US-Asean Business Council said it was aware of the decision, and added that a major technology summit it was planning on the sidelines of the meeting was also being postponed.

"We look forward to working closely with US and Asean leadership to ensure the success of this important engagement at a later date," the council's vice-president, Ms Elizabeth Dugan, said in a statement.

In Japan, the traditional spring celebrations in Tokyo and Osaka, which attract millions of people wanting to see the white and pink cherry blossoms, will not go ahead as planned in April.

"We are sincerely sorry for those who were looking forward to the viewing... but please give us your understanding," the Japan Mint in Osaka said on Friday.

Other cherry blossom events - feverishly anticipated by locals and tourists - are likely to follow suit, according to local media.

Meanwhile, Google cancelled a major sales and marketing event that was set to take place in Las Vegas this month.

"In light of the evolving coronavirus situation, we made the decision to cancel an internal event that would have brought thousands of employees together from across two continents," a spokesman said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also recommended that ministers and diplomats skip a meeting in New York this month of the Commission on the Status of Women, owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials said more than 7,000 people usually attend the annual meeting dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It was due to be held from March 9 to 20.

However, in a letter to UN member states from the chair of the commission, Armenia's UN Ambassador Mher Margaryan said Mr Guterres had recommended that member states "shorten and scale down the session" and cancel dozens of side events.

"He also strongly recommended that capital-based representatives refrain from travelling to headquarters for the session," Mr Margaryan wrote.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 01, 2020, with the headline 'Growing number of major events put on hold or scrapped'. Print Edition | Subscribe