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Berlin travel fair ITB canceled over coronavirus fears

Berlin travel fair ITB canceled over coronavirus fears
The entrance to ITB Berlin on Friday, the same day that the travel fair was cancelled. Photo: DPA
Organisers of the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin, billed as the world's biggest, said Friday they were cancelling the event over coronavirus fears.

“We take our responsibility for the security and the health of our guests,
exhibitors and employees very seriously. It is with a heavy heart that we have to look at the necessary cancellation of the ITB Berlin 2020,” said Christian Göke, chairman of organisers Messe Berlin. 

The fair was due to open next Wednesday (March 4th), but concerns grew over the viability of hosting huge numbers of visitors as Germany recorded a jump in the number of infected residents.

With confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Europe's biggest economy rising above 60, more than 1,000 people were in quarantine in Germany's most populous state Friday.

READ ALSO: Germany quarantines 1,000 as coronavirus cases push past 50

The district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia said it had to take the step of keeping around 1,000 on their homes as an infected couple had participated in carnival celebrations in mid-February.

Schools and kindergartens were also shut in the district until Monday as the number of cases linked to the cluster reached 20.

Growing number of cases

Separately, accountancy giant Ernst & Young told its 1,400 employees at its Düsseldorf office and another 110 in Essen to work from home after one worker reportedly contracted the virus.

In Hamburg, dozens of parents and children who were in contact with an infected paediatrician at a university clinic have also been ordered to stay home for 14 days.

With cases now detected across several further German states including Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, Health Minister Jens Spahn said this week that Europe's biggest country was “at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic”.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: The everyday precautions to take if you're in Germany

The government has ordered local authorities in the country's 16 states to update their pandemic readiness plans.

It also from Thursday began requiring travellers arriving from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy to provide contact details in case their movements had to be traced over possible infections.

Lowered expectations

Of the 10,000 exhibitors expected at ITB from all over the world, 22 would have come from China and 25 others from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The organisers of the fair – which was slated to run from March 4th-8th – originally expected about 160,000 visitors, but had lowered their estimates somewhat over the last few days.
 
Yet only a few days before the cancellation, the venue Messe Berlin and the organisers of the ITB had expressed their confidence that the fair would take place as planned. 
 
In the course of the week, the requirements for exhibitors were then tightened.
 
For example, no participants were to be admitted who had been in risk areas, or who showed symptoms of the virus.
 
Meanwhile, the ITB in China, which was planned for May, had already been cancelled by the organisers last week.

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