MELBOURNE, Australia — The show must go on, insist the organizers of the Singapore Airshow, despite an increasing number of exhibitors pulling out of the biennial event due to fears of the new coronavirus epidemic sweeping the globe.
At the show’s opening media conference on Sunday, Leck Chet Lam, managing director of show organizer Experia Events, said even though more than 70 individual exhibitors decided — or in the case of the Chinese companies, were compelled — to skip the event, the vacated floor space represents only 10 percent of the total exhibition area.
As of Sunday, the voluntary withdrawals from the show, which runs Feb. 11-16, included U.S. defense giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon as well as Italy’s Leonardo. They were joined by Honeywell along with a number of smaller companies on Monday.
Leck added that the number of participating aircraft on the static display was originally meant to be “40 to 45,” 10 to 15 have dropped out.
Nevertheless, he said Experia saw it as "very important that we make this platform [the air show] available for the business community,” despite the current situation, which he labelled as “trying.”
Singapore has been one of the countries hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with 45 cases in the island republic as of Monday. These included a number of victims who had not been to Wuhan in China, where the virus originated.
For his part, the commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Charles Brown, who is currently in Singapore for the air show, expressed satisfaction with the precautions taken by local authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus. These measures include increased temperature screening at key locations as well as the suspension of short-term visitors from China into Singapore.
Experia’s Leck also said organizers "take very close guidance, and we make reference to guidelines issued by government authorities” during any decision-making process related to the air show.
The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. The virus causes pneumonia-like symptoms. It has infected more than 25,000 people and killed more than 800, almost all in China.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.