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Swiss, Greek doc fests hit by virus fears

Concerns about the coronavirus continue to affect events

Geneva’s International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) has been cancelled over concerns about the spread of coronavirus, while other industry events have been postponed.

The FIFDH event usually welcomes up to 40,000 people from more than 30 countries each year and was due to take place on March 6 to 11, across 65 locations in and around the Swiss capital.

However, following the decision of Switzerland’s Federal Council to prohibit any event of more than 1,000 people and after consultation with the health authorities of the Canton of Geneva, the team behind FIFDH this afternoon announced its decision to cancel the 18th edition of the festival.

The organisers said it would be unveiling details of a “redesigned FIFDH” in the coming days.

The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (TDF) in Greece is another event that has been impacted by the coronavirus issue. The event was due to start later this week but has been dropped, possibly until May/June, due to the latest announcement issued by the World Health Organization.

The cancellation of FIFDH and postponement of TDF come after the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, a popular event for the kids’ TV industry, was moved from this month to May. Hong Kong’s International Film & TV Market (Filmart) has also been postponed from this month to late August, due to the coronavirus situation in Asia.

“Given the international nature of the festival, the nature of the places and the impossibility of identifying the public in the event of contamination, we received a negative notice from the cantonal authorities, which led us to the regrettable but inevitable decision to cancel the 18th edition of the Festival,” said FIFDH director Isabelle Gattiker.

“This is an extremely difficult decision for the team, but it is a case of force majeure. We take the safety and health of our guests, our audience and the team very seriously. We count on the understanding of the guests, partners, patrons, as well as the thousands of people who trust us and attend the festival every year,” added FIFDH president Bruno Giussani.

“The safety of the working staff, the audience, the city’s residents and the festival’s guests from both Greece and abroad are our top-notch priority. We are considering the prospect of hosting the 22nd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival at the end of May/beginning of June and we’ll keep you up to date as soon as there’s more news to share,” said a TDF statement today.

The decisions will be watched closely by MipTV organiser Reed Midem, which today said it was “monitoring events” surrounding its upcoming market, after the French government banned all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a bid to contain the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Authorities on Saturday reported 16 new cases of the virus, prompting health minister Olivier Véran to announce: “All public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a confined space are temporarily banned.”

The move has seen the postponement of Cannes real estate market Mipim by MipTV organiser Reed Midem and also the cancelling of the Paris half marathon. The city of Nice has already cancelled public events such as the Nice Carnival and the Menton Lemon Festival due to concerns over public safety.

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