Organisers of next week’s (3 March) Geneva Motor Show have cancelled the event after a Federal Edict banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people came into immediate effect, following the increasing impact of the coronavirus in Europe.

An extraordinary meeting of Switzerland’s Federal Council held in Bern today (28 February), made the draconian decision through the country’s Epidemics Act, with the instruction applying until at least 15 March..

“We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors’ top priority,” said Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) chairman of the Foundation Board, Maurice Turrettini.

“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 they will understand this decision.”

A statement from GIMS noted a few days before the opening of the event, stand construction was very nearly complete and there was nothing to suggest such a measure was necessary. The situation changed however, adds GIMS, with the appearance of the first confirmed coronavirus diseases in Switzerland and the injunction of the Federal Council on 28 February. The event is cancelled due to the decision.

“Dismantling of the event will now have to be organised,” added a GIMS statement. “The financial consequences for all those involved in the event are significant and will need to be assessed over 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.”

Swiss authorities this morning issued the immediate ban on large gatherings insisting their “top priority” was to protect the public. “The Federal Council’s top priority is to protect the population,” said a statement from the Council. “It is responding to the latest developments in the coronavirus epidemic and has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act.

“This enables the Federal Council, in consultation with the cantons, to order measures that are normally the responsibility of the cantons. The Federal Council is banning public and private events in Switzerland at which more than 1,000 people would gather. This ban on events comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March. The cantons are responsible for enforcing the ban.

“The Federal Council is aware this measure will have a significant impact on public life in Switzerland. However, the move is expected to provide effective protection to people in Switzerland and to public health.

“It should prevent or delay the spread of the disease in Switzerland, thus reducing its momentum.”