The Singapore Airshow is going ahead, despite 70 exhibitors, including US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, De Havilland and Canada’s Bombardier, giving it a miss this year, over concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
Organisers were desperate for Asia's biggest aviation event to still go ahead and have enforced an array of precautionary measures, including a major reduction in public attendance and temperature screenings.
Leck Chet Lam, the Managing Director of organiser Experia Events, said there was “still strong [exhibitor] presence” at the show, noting that companies not attending represented fewer than 8% of those that had signed up for the show.
Singapore has registered 40 confirmed coronavirus cases and on 7 February raised the threat level from the epidemic to the same put in place during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Although Singapore had barred the entry of travellers who had been to China recently from entering or transiting through its territory, the Chinese air force is taking part in the air show for the first time. A Chinese acrobatic team is participating in the flight displays although 10 Chinese companies have withdrawn.
Justifying the decision to proceed with the airshow, Tan Kong Hwee, Assistant Managing Director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board said: “Based on our assessment of the situation today...we have decided to proceed with the trade and public days”.
Organisers have advised trade visitors to avoid shaking hands and Singapore has also maintained its advisory that non-essential large-scale events should be deferred or cancelled.
They said they were expecting 930 companies from 45 countries and 45,000 trade attendees. Those figures compared with 54,000 trade attendees and 1,062 firms at the 2018 show, which contributed S$343m (US$247m) to the local economy.
“Already, there were signs of weakness in the cycle and then coronavirus comes along,” said Rob Morris, head consultant at UK-based aviation consultancy Ascend by Cirium.
“Given how much bigger China is today as a part of the global economy and the global airline traffic, the potential for impact is clearly much greater than it was for SARS back in the 2000s,” Morris added.
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Leading exhibition centre close to the airshow, Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria, updated its own advice on novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on 7 February, with the following statement:
In view of the developing novel coronavirus situation in Singapore, additional precautionary measures have been activated around Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria to reduce the risk of transmission. As a matter of safety and precaution, staff, partners and tenants have been advised to remain vigilant, adopt good personal hygiene practices, monitor their health closely, and to be socially responsible.
Health advisory signage and digital billboards have been put up around Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria to advise all visitors to the venue. Strengthened sanitary measures are in place; frequency of cleaning has been doubled and hand sanitisers are available at various locations of the venue. Cleaners at Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria are also required to don masks and gloves.
There are now three general entry points at the venue with temperature screening stations manned by the SingEx response team:
- Foyer 1
- Foyer 2
- Coach Bay Link Bridge
In accordance to the Singapore Ministry of Health’s advisories, individuals who are unwell with fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath, individuals on Leave of Absence (LOA), and individuals with recent travel history to mainland China, in particular Hubei province, within the last 14 days, will be denied entry to the venue.
At Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria, we want to assure the public that the health and safety of our customers are of utmost importance. We wish to give our reassurance that we will assist those who are affected during this.
period and will take cue from the Singapore Ministry of Health’s advisories on our courses of actions.
The situation is currently being monitored and we will keep the public informed in due course.