Coronavirus: London Book Fair cancelled over outbreak

Prestigious fair with focus on Sharjah joins list of high-profile events cancelled across Europe

Day two of the London Book Fair on the 13th March 2019 at London Olympia in the United Kingdom. (photo by Sam Mellish / In Pictures via Getty Images Images)

The London Book Fair due to take place next week has been cancelled over coronavirus fears, organisers said on Wednesday, citing travel restrictions and UK government guidelines.

The fair, which usually draws more than 25,000 writers, agents and publishers to one of the international publishing industry’s biggest gatherings, had been due to take place at London’s Olympia conference venue between March 10 and 12.

Hopes the event would avoid being caught up in a wave of high-profile cancellations across Europe had been lifted on Tuesday, when organisers said the event would go ahead despite the virus.

But Organiser Reed Exhibitions said on Wednesday it had decided “with reluctance” to cancel the event, saying many of those planning to participate were facing travel restrictions.

The company said it was following guidelines set by the British government as well as advice given out by international health authorities.

The decision came after several major publishers, including HarperCollins and Penguin Random House, pulled out of the fair because of the disease, citing the risk to staff.

“The effects, actual and projected, of coronavirus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives here in the UK and across the world,” Reed Exhibitions said.

Best-selling authors including David Mitchell and Tessa Hadley were due to speak at the event.

Sharjah had been named the fair’s market focus for 2020 in recognition for its promotion of books and literacy over the last 40 years.

A programme of events celebrating Emirati books and authors had been planned.

The decision to cancel the fair followed the cancellation or postponing of other high-profile international events across Europe as the continent struggles to contain a rise cases of the virus.

In Germany, where only a day earlier the country’s second largest book fair in Leipzig was cancelled over coronavirus fears, the government has moved to cancel large public gatherings including parades and carnivals.

France’s Louvre art gallery was closed for several days earlier this week, and the French government has banned public gatherings of more than 5,000 people over virus fears.

And in Italy, the country in Europe worst-affected by the outbreak, many cultural events, trade shows and sports fixtures have been cancelled and postponed.

On Wednesday the government was set to close cinemas and theatres and ban public events across the whole country to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, according to a draft decree.

Milan fashion week was closed to the public as a precautionary measure, and the Venice carnival was cut short as authorities scrambled to fight the spread of the virus in the country’s affluent north.

But perhaps Europe’s most high-profile cancellation came in Switzerland, where the Geneva motor show – one of the car industry’s biggest events – was cancelled after the government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people.