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South by Southwest festival cancelled over coronavirus

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One of America's most famous music festivals, South by Southwest, has been cancelled due to coronavirus fears.

Organisers of the annual event in Austin, Texas, had no choice but to call it off for the first time in its 34-year history.

The cancellation was ordered by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who declared a local disaster.

The US coronavirus death toll stands at 14, but over 200 people have been confirmed sickened nationwide.

All but one of the deaths have occurred in Washington state.

Texas has recorded six cases in recent days.

In a statement, SXSW said it was "devastated" by the news, but respected the decision.

Event organisers said: "'The show must go on' is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place.

"We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation."

Friday's announcement came after some of the event's biggest exhibitors - including Apple, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook - pulled out.

Netflix, social media platform TikTok, and chip maker Intel had also already withdrawn.

Last year the event drew nearly 74,000 people with over 19,000 participants coming from outside the US.

The economic impact on the city - the Texas capital - is expected to be huge.

In 2018, visitors spent $350m (£270m) during the festival, according to a study commissioned by event organisers.

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Mike Pence, who is co-ordinating the nation's response to the outbreak, confirmed that 21 people had tested positive for the coronavirus on a cruise ship that had been quarantined off the California coast.

He said 46 people aboard the Grand Princess had been swabbed - 19 crew and two passengers were found to be infected.

There are 3,500 people on the vessel, including more than 2,400 passengers, who have been confined to their cabins.

On Friday, the White House briefly cancelled President Donald Trump's visit to the Centers for Disease Control, after someone at the globally renowned public health institute in Atlanta, Georgia, was suspected of being infected with the disease.

But the trip was later restored to Mr Trump's schedule after the person tested negative.

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump - a self-confessed germaphobe - was seen shaking hands with people as he visited a community hit by a tornado in Tennessee.

On Thursday, he told Fox News that he would continue shaking hands, despite warnings from health officials against doing so.

"I love the people of this country, and you can't be a politician and not shake hands," he said.

"And I'll be shaking hands with people - and they want to say hello and hug you and kiss you - I don't care."

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