March 5, 2020 / 5:58 PM / a month ago

Russia cancels flagship St Petersburg economic forum over coronavirus fears

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has canceled its flagship annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum this year as a precaution against coronavirus, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov said on Thursday.

The forum, which was due to be held in St Petersburg on June 3-6, is usually chaired by President Vladimir Putin and is seen as one of the main international events on Russia’s economic agenda.

Russia decided to cancel SPIEF 2020 to protect the health of Russian citizens as well as that of participants in the forum, Belousov’s spokesman said.

Deputy Governor of St Petersburg, Evgeny Yelin, said it was bad news for the city but he understands and shares the government’s concerns about the virus, Interfax news agency reported.

Russia has so far not reported any confirmed cases of people contracting coronavirus on its territory, although six people who picked up the virus elsewhere have received or are receiving treatment.

The event is the latest in a string of trade fairs and industry conferences to be canceled or postponed because of the spreading coronavirus, including the Geneva Motor Show scheduled for this week.

In February, Russia postponed its Russian Investment Forum, usually attended by a string of high-ranking officials and foreign investors, that been set to take place Feb. 12-14 in Sochi.

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Darya Korsunskaya; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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