Geneva Motor Show hangs in balance as coronavirus crisis deepens

By James Baggott

Geneva Motor Show organisers have said the event will still be going ahead as planned, despite the deepening coronavirus crisis cancelling a technology show in Europe.

Yesterday, the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, which attracts 100,000 visitors from across the world, was cancelled, the first time the show had been called off in 33 years. Organisers blamed the coronavirus outbreak.

Now, organisers of arguably Europe’s most important car show – which attracts 600,000 visitors – have admitted they are carefully monitoring the coronavirus outbreak on an “hour-by-hour” basis.

A spokesperson for the Geneva Motor Show – set to be held between March 5-15 at the Palexpo – told the PA news agency that currently the show “was still going ahead”, but admitted they were cautiously watching the situation evolve.

Laura Manon, spokesperson for the show, said: “The news that the Mobile World Congress has been cancelled has just reached us and is a shock. We are carefully looking at the situation and taking advice from health organisations here in Geneva and the World Health Organisation with regards to our show.

“As it stands today, the motor show is still going ahead. Last year, less than one per cent of visitors came from outside Europe, but we are aware the coronavirus situation is changing by the hour.”

The Geneva Motor Show issued a statement on its website yesterday which said organisers had put in place a sanitary action plan which included increased cleaning and disinfection.

Staff were also being given training on personal preventative measures and new signs were being installed at the show to remind attendees about hygiene recommendations.

The statement said: “The current situation in Switzerland is rather reassuring – none of the samples tested so far has been positive for the novel coronavirus.”

The MWC started to look in doubt when big-name attendees including Ericsson, Sony, Nokia, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom pulled out.

In a statement to Bloomberg, following news of the MWC cancellation, John Hoffman, chief executive officer of organisers GSMA, said “the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances make it impossible” to hold the event.

Geneva motor show organisers said that so far no exhibitors had pulled out, but that the situation “could change at any time”.

“We advise visitors and exhibitors to monitor our website carefully for any updates on the show’s status,” she added.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organisation / Europe said it was down to national authorities to “make decisions about these types of issues based on their own assessed risks”.

The spokesperson added: “There is no evidence at present to suggest that there is community spread outside China, so WHO is not currently requesting that large gatherings are cancelled.

“Similarly, companies and other organisations are at liberty to make their own decisions according to their specific circumstances and their assessment of the risk to business.

“WHO works closely with organisations that plan mass gatherings to provide advice, inform their risk assessment and support on any potential impact on health.”