By Rebecca Elliott and Elizabeth Findell 

Austin's South by Southwest festival has been cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus, the city's mayor said Friday, the latest major event to be called off due to fears of the fast-spreading disease.

"After consultation with the city manager, I've gone ahead and declared a local disaster in the city," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a news conference, adding that the order effectively cancels South by Southwest for this year.

City leaders and health officials said earlier this week that the two-week tech, film and music festival would go on as planned starting March 13. But a wave of companies including Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. Netflix Inc. and Twitter Inc. said their employees wouldn't attend, and more than 50,000 people signed a petition urging that it be called off, putting pressure on organizers and public officials to make a decision.

Since its inception as a future-minded music festival in 1987, South by Southwest has grown to include film and technology, becoming an influential gathering for discussing and promoting new movies, artists, apps and other products -- as well as a popular extended party. It now brings hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to Austin each spring, including many celebrities, politicians and CEOs.

Among the businesses that flowered with help from the festival is Twitter, which gained buzz when many people at South by Southwest in 2007 began using the microblogging platform. Artists whose careers received a boost from performances at the event include White Stripes and Katy Perry.

This year's show was initially scheduled to include appearances by Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, and the Beastie Boys, who were set to discuss "Beastie Boys Story," a documentary on the rap group by Spike Jonze, as well as Ozzy Osbourne, who was set to promote his documentary "The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne." All of them canceled earlier this week due to the virus.

World-wide, hundreds of conferences and trade shows are being canceled or postponed as the novel coronavirus leads companies to cut back on nonessential travel and government officials impose tougher measures restricting large gatherings, adding up to tens of millions of lost visits and revenue for local economies.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 06, 2020 17:18 ET (22:18 GMT)

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