March 3, 2020 / 7:29 AM / a month ago

Concerts, sports events canceled in Gulf as coronavirus spreads

DUBAI (Reuters) - Major concerts and sporting events in Gulf Arab states have been canceled or postponed and Saudi Arabia stepped up health screening measures in response to the spreading coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Tourists wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, as they walk at the Grand Souq in old Dubai, United Arab Emirates March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Christopher Pike

There have been at least 2,476 cases of the virus in the Gulf region, mostly in Iran where 77 people have died. Cases have also been reported in other Middle East nations.

In the United Arab Emirates, a tourism and business hub, this month’s electronic music Ultra festival at Abu Dhabi’s 25,000-capacity Du arena and K-pop concert Music Bank at Dubai’s 17,000-capacity Coca Cola Arena have been canceled.

Electronic group Major Lazer, whose members include renowned DJ Diplo, and DJ Afrojack were scheduled to perform at Ultra.

Ultra organizers cited travel restrictions imposed by some countries and airlines due to the rapidly spreading virus in its reasoning for cancelling the two-day festival.

Music Bank organizers cited the spread of the epidemic in South Korea, which is the highest outside China, and elsewhere.

Conferences, concerts and sporting events are a major draw-card for foreign visitors to the UAE, which has reported 27 cases of coronavirus.

Dubai’s flagship international art fair “Art Dubai”, scheduled for this month, has been postponed. A women’s forum in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi was postponed while a yoga festival in Abu Dhabi and a Hindu Holi festival in Dubai were canceled.

The opening round of the 2020 World Triathlon Series scheduled in Abu Dhabi this weekend has been postponed.

American rapper and producer Russ will now perform in Dubai in November instead of March because of the virus. “I know, wild lol (laugh out loud) but outta my control,” he said on Twitter.

The UAE education ministry said schools and higher educational institutions would be closed for four weeks from Sunday to help contain the spread of coronavirus.

It also moved forward spring holidays, which were due to run from March 29-April 12, to a start date of March 8.

The Oman Petroleum & Energy Show (OPES), due to take place in the sultanate in March, has been postponed to September, the organizers told Reuters. Oman on Tuesday confirmed six new cases of coronavirus, taking the total there to 12.

Qatar has canceled a defense exhibition and Bahrain postponed two oil and gas conferences from this month to the second half of the year.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday that people entering the kingdom by land, including via the causeway linking the country with Bahrain, were being screened. [nL8N2AW4Y3]

The Red Sea International Film Festival announced on Tuesday that it will postpone its inaugural edition, which was scheduled to run during March 12-21, in Jeddah, the kingdom’s second largest city.

“The spread of coronavirus is a battle we all must face around the globe,” said a statement posted on its website, adding that the new date will be announced as soon as feasible. Saudi Arabia has announced on Monday detection of first case of coronavirus.

The Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship has also postponed its Saudi Arabia Grand Prix indefinitely due to the global outbreak.

Kuwait postponed the GCC Games, a regional multi-sport tournament, from April to December. It also closed its zoo and the Health Ministry instructed cafes to stop serving the shisha water pipe, state news agency KUNA reported on Tuesday.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, Nafisa Eltahir, Stephen Kalin, Ahmed Hagagy, Dahlia Nehme and Alaa Swilam; Editing by Uttaresh.V, Mark Heinrich and Lisa Shumaker

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