WASHINGTON/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The Pentagon shrunk the size of its delegation traveling to the Singapore Airshow and U.S. defence firms Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co said they would not attend, as the impact of the coronavirus has reduced participation in the event.
Airbus SE and Boeing Co, two of the largest exhibitors, said on Saturday they would still attend the show but would adjust their presence due to the circumstances, without providing further details.
Both had been due to send some of their most senior executives to Asia’s largest aviation and defence event before Singapore on Friday raised its alert level for the coronavirus outbreak to orange, the same level reached during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory System (SARS) pandemic.
The airshow from Feb. 11 to 16 will go ahead, but organisers might look to limit public visitors, a Singaporean official said on Friday, as the country reported three more coronavirus cases that authorities have not yet linked to previous infections or travel to China.
That move sparked panic-buying of essentials in some shops across the island.
The death toll in mainland China rose by 86 to 722 on Saturday, according to authorities, and is poised to pass the 774 deaths recorded globally from SARS, another coronavirus that jumped from animals to humans in China.
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Ellen Lord will no longer attend the Singapore Airshow “due to extenuating circumstances”, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews said in a statement.
Lord is the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer and was the Pentagon’s lead representative at the event. Other Pentagon leaders including uniformed military officials plan to attend.
Lockheed Martin became the first major U.S. defence company to announce it will not attend the show due to the coronavirus.
“We determined this was in the best interest of our employees and aligned with the U.S. Department of Defense’s decision to reduce its presence,” Lockheed said in a statement.
Raytheon also pulled out. “Because of the growing health crisis in the region, and out of an abundance of caution, Raytheon Company will not be exhibiting at this year’s Singapore Airshow,” it said in a statement.
Longview Aviation, the owner of turboprop manufacturer De Havilland Canada and small aircraft maker Viking Air, said the companies would no longer participate in the show in light of Singapore’s increased virus alert level.
Business jet manufacturers Bombardier Inc,, Textron Inc and General Dynamics Corp’s Gulfstream division were also among those to have earlier pulled out of the airshow.
Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington and Jamie Freed in Singapore; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Ros Russell