THE GENEVA motor show has been cancelled just a few days before the doors were due to open, after the Swiss government decided to ban all large events in the country amid fears of the spread of coronavirus.
The Swiss Federal Council announced this morning that it would ban any public or private event gathering of more than 1000 people until at least March 15.
A statement added: “In the case of public or private events at which fewer than 1,000 people would gather, event organisers must carry out a risk assessment in conjunction with the competent cantonal authorities to decide whether or not the event can be held.
“The cantons are responsible for enforcing the ban.”
Health Minister Alain Berset (pictured) said that similar measures had proved effective in other countries. He told reporters that the number of cases in Switzerland, where 15 cases have been confirmed, was “not a surprise”.
“We have to expect an increase in cases in the next few days,” he said.
The organisers of the Geneva international motor show (GIMS) confirmed the ban means the event, which was due to kick off with two days of media previews from Monday and run until March 15, will not take place this year.
In a statement they said they accept the decision by the Federal Council. Maurice Turrettini, Chairman of the Foundation Board, said: “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.”
Just two days ago, a statement from the show said that its board and representatives of the Palexpo exhibition centre had met to re-evaluate the coronavirus “situation”, given the latest information from the Swiss cantonal health authorities, and agreed to proceed with the show.
It read: “Based on the current situation, we have been advised that GIMS can open as planned.
“GIMS and Palexpo are following the guidelines of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), are in regular contact with the General Directorate of Health of the Republic and Canton of Geneva and its medical advisor, and have developed an action plan that can be adapted as necessary in real time.
“The organisers will continue to monitor and reassess the situation regularly.”
This morning’s statement sought to dampen accusations of indecision in recent days: “A week ago, during the press conferences announcing the 2020 edition, there was nothing to suggest that such a measure was necessary. The situation changed with the appearance of the first confirmed coronavirus diseases in Switzerland and the injunction of the Federal Council on 28.02.2020. The event is cancelled due to this decision.”
Car makers are now confirming that they have been forced to pull out of the show. Many have booked accommodation in, and travel to and from Geneva, for events teams, public relations officers, management and guests during the week.
A public relations officer for a major automotive brand told Driving.co.uk: “It’s not a huge surprise but I was expecting something a little more concrete on this a little earlier, to be honest.”
In an email they added: “We are currently working on options for all of those [journalists] who had interviews arranged at Geneva with the most likely solution being either Skype or telephone interviews with … chosen execs.”
The GIMS will now begin organising the dismantling of the event, it said, and decisions about the “significant” financial consequences for exhibitors and attendees would be decided in the coming weeks.
“One thing is certain: tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded. The organisers will communicate about this as soon as possible, via their website,” the GIMS statement confirmed, adding, “We would like to warmly thank all those involved in the organisation of the 2020 edition of GIMS.”