Switzerland bans gatherings of more than 1,000 people until March 15 amid coronavirus

Switzerland bans gatherings of more than 1,000 people until March 15 amid coronavirus
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Switzerland is banning all public and private gatherings involving more than 1,000 people amid fears about the coronavirus.

The ban will last until at least March 15, leading to the cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show, The Associated Press reported Friday. The event was scheduled to run March 5-15.

Switzerland has reported 15 cases of the virus as of Friday. The country borders Italy, which has suffered the largest coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

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Alain Berset, Switzerland's interior minister, told the newswire that the government knows the ban on large gatherings "will have a significant impact on public life."

“However, the move is expected to provide effective protection to people in Switzerland and to public health,” he said. “It should prevent or delay the spread of the disease in Switzerland, thus reducing its momentum.”

Maurice Turrettini, chairman of GIMS — the company that organizes the annual auto show — said that more than 160 auto brands were slated to be showcased at this year's event. He said that the brands wouldn't be reimbursed but that consumers who bought tickets would be.

According to the AP, the event was projected to inject as much as $259 million into Geneva's economy.

Swiss authorities didn't make clear whether events at the United Nations offices in Geneva would be affected by the ban. The international body has special extraterritorial status, which could make it exempt from the prohibition.

U.N. Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez told reporters Friday that “well over 1,000 participants” were taking part in a four-week session that began Monday and that the council's top officials were meeting to discuss the possible impact of the Swiss government's announcement.