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Geneva show proceeds despite coronavirus scare

Show stopper: The rapidly evolving coronavirus situation in Europe and around the world will reduce the attendance of automotive executives, employees and media at the upcoming Geneva motor show.

European coronavirus epicentre close to Italy-Swiss border overshadows Geneva show

26 Feb 2020

UPDATED: 27/02/2020


ORGANISERS of next week’s Geneva motor show have confirmed the event will go ahead, despite increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in Europe that threaten to disrupt proceedings and forced the Palexpo venue to postpone the International Exhibition of Inventions that was scheduled to follow the Swiss car extravaganza.


Coronavirus concerns caused cancellation of the Mobile World Congress that was supposed to take place in Barcelona this week as well as postponement of April’s Beijing motor show.


Palexpo confirmed overnight that the Geneva show will proceed, after organisers reassessed the situation following confirmation of Switzerland’s first coronavirus case by Swiss federal public health authorities.


“Based on the current situation, we have been advised that GIMS (Geneva International Motor Show) can open as planned,” it said.


The epicentre of the European outbreak is northern Italy, where 12 coronavirus-related deaths and close to 400 cases have been confirmed. Switzerland’s coronavirus infection appears to have originated in northern Italy, as have others in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany and Spain, as well as Algeria and Brazil.


GoAuto understands that the outbreak has led car-makers headquartered in Asia and North America to avoid sending representatives from outside Europe to the Geneva show, as well as finalising the decisions of brands that were on the fence as to whether they invited a contingent of Australian media to the Swiss event.


In addition, Reuters reports that the coronavirus outbreak had “already seen some high-profile executives cancel their attendance” and that brake manufacturer Brembo had pulled the pin on a planned media breakfast that was to be hosted by CEO Daniele Schillaci.


Outside the Geneva show, GoAuto understands that at least one overseas trip for Australian automotive media has been kyboshed by a car-maker’s corporate-level travel restrictions.


An employee of Turin-based design house Italdesign-Giugiaro is reportedly among those infected, leading the company to close both its facilities in the city. Both have since been reopened.


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has reportedly restricted access to its European sites, none of which are in the worst affected regions of northern Italy, comprising Lombardia that borders Switzerland and Veneto on the nation’s north-eastern coast and bordering Austria.


FCA has claimed business as usual for its Italian factories, with another plant in Serbia to resume production this week following coronavirus-related constraints of component supplies out of China.


If the situation in Italy escalates in coming days, it could lead to the nation’s car-makers pulling out of the Geneva show at the last minute and trigger a domino effect of cancellations.


Palexpo, which is adjacent to the international airport, issued a statement this week outlining the measures it has taken to mitigate coronavirus risk.


These include increased cleaning and disinfection of catering areas, handrails, toilets, entrances, touchscreens and other surfaces plus awareness-raising through signage and staff training.


Palexpo is also developing a flexible action plan to prevent and deal with potential on-site infections and is encouraging exhibitors to “ensure that their staff pass the necessary checks and do not show any symptoms of infection in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Switzerland”.


At the time of writing, the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website had no coronavirus alert for Switzerland, but did for the outbreak regions of northern Italy.


“Due to a heightened risk of sustained local transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in parts of northern Italy, we now advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the regions of Lombardia and Veneto,” the advisory note said.


“We continue to advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the rest of Italy. Italy has confirmed cases of COVID-19, including deaths. There are measures in place to limit movement in northern Italy, and some public facilities are closed.”

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