GENEVA, Switzerland — The organizers of the Geneva International Motor Show have canceled the event, due to be held March 5-15, after the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people as a measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
"We regret to announce the 2020 Geneva motor show will be canceled. This is force majeure, circumstances over which we have no control," Maurice Turrettini, chairman of the show's board of trustees, said at a news conference on Feb. 28.
Organizers said the show will not be rescheduled to a later date.
"The show cannot be postponed. It's not possible. It's too big. It's not feasible," Show Director Olivier Rihs said.
The show's board said construction of the stands was nearly completed and dismantling will be organized immediately.
"The financial consequences of this cancellation will have to be examined and evaluated in the coming weeks," it said. Those who already had bought tickets will have their money refunded, the board said.
Swiss Federal Heath Minister Alain Berset announced Feb. 28 that events involving more than 1,000 people were prohibited with immediate effect.
"In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorized the situation in Switzerland as 'special' in terms of the Epidemics Act," the cabinet said after a meeting.
"Large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until March 15."
The move aims to avoid crowds congregating in confined places such as concert and exhibition halls and public celebrations. It will not, at least for now, apply to train stations and shopping malls where people have only fleeting contact, officials said.
The Geneva show — considered one of Europe's glitziest and biggest auto exhibitions — first was staged in 1905 and last canceled during World War II and its aftermath.
Top executives from auto makers spanning Volkswagen A.G., Daimler A.G. and BMW A.G. to Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co. usually attend the Geneva show.