Russia cancels main business forum over virus

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 06 2020 07:51 AM

Chinese young women are pictured wearing mask in the Red Square in Moscow, Russia Jan. 28, 2020. Maxim Shemetov, Reuters/File

MOSCOW — Russia will not hold its main business showcase, the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, in June due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the head of its organizing committee said on Thursday, quoted by Russian news agencies.

"With the aim of protecting the health of Russian citizens, guests and participants in the forum, it was decided not to hold it this year," the head of the organizing committee, Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov said through a spokesman, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The annual forum, often described as Russia's answer to Davos, was due to run June 3 to 6. It is the country's main showcase for investors, attracting political and business leaders from around the world.

Last year President Vladimir Putin hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at the event in Russia's second largest city.

The previous year French President Emmanuel Macron attended while in 2017 Indian premier Narendra Modi was the guest of honor.

The event last year was attended by more than 19,000 people from 145 countries, according to organizers.

The virus outbreak has already prompted the postponement or cancellation of business forums around the world.

Russia postponed an investment forum that was due to be held in mid-February in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Russia's health watchdog on Thursday reported the latest confirmed case of the coronavirus as an Italian man. Russian television reported he studies medicine at a university in Saint Petersburg.

Russia now has seven confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 3 people repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan and two Chinese citizens. The first case in Moscow, a Russian man who had traveled to Italy, was announced on Monday.

The country has imposed a near blanket ban on visits by Chinese citizens and flagship airline Aeroflot said Thursday it will suspend flights to and from Hong Kong from March 8.

It has also restricted entry for Iranians and for those travelling from South Korea.

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