Here's how major events in Montreal are handling COVID-19 concerns

As some sporting events and shows are cancelled in other parts of the country, most Montreal events are scheduled to go on as planned. 

Organizers are mulling cancellations of large, international events as the virus spreads

Canada's Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha were two athletes set to compete in the World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal next week. On Wednesday, organizers announced the event would be cancelled. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

As some sporting events and shows around the world are cancelled or modified due to COVID-19 fears, event planners in Montreal are also trying to figure out how handle concerns about the virus. 

In the last few days, the hugely popular music, film and tech conference South by Southwest was cancelled, the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, set to begin today, was postponed, and organizers of the Bahrain Grand Prix race announced the event will be closed to fans.

According to the Canadian government's website, all organizers of large gatherings are encouraged to get in touch with health authorities to determine whether or not their event should be postponed. 

This advice is especially true for large gatherings that are indoors, and where people will be standing within two metres of each other, it said.

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said the provincial government is in the process of reviewing all upcoming major events in the city — including Montreal's St. Patrick's Day parade.

As of Tuesday afternoon, organizers said they have no plans to cancel the 197th edition of the parade.

According to parade organizers, if the situation in Montreal deteriorates, and if Health Canada recommends large events be cancelled, they will re-evaluate.

"We're following the situation very closely. We know that even in the summer, we have quite a few events," said McCann. "We will have to make decisions in the very short term." 

So, will the Montreal event you are supposed to attend in the next few weeks go on as planned? The short answer is: for now, probably.

Here's a partial list of how organizers here are dealing with the situation. 

World Figure Skating Championships 

The World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal has been cancelled. The competition would have seen 200 skaters from 50 countries compete at the Bell Centre from March 16 to 22. 

Local pro sports teams still playing

All Impact games in Montreal are also scheduled to go ahead for now. According to a spokesperson for the team, the Impact has been in contact with government officials and with MLS to closely monitor the situation. 

The league has formed a task force to look into the issue. 

The Montreal Canadiens put out a statement Monday afternoon saying that precaution and prevention measures have been put in place to "ensure our fans and spectators feel safe."

In addition, the NHL is closing access to locker rooms to all nonessential personnel, including media, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a joint statement Monday night, the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer said they made the decision "after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.''

More cleaning staff at the Bell Centre

Evenko, Montreal's largest music and sports promoter, told CBC News that extra hygienic measures have been put in place at the Bell Centre, Place Bell, MTelus, the Corona Theatre, L'Astral, L'Étoile Banque Nationale and Club DIX30.

In addition, more than 200 sanitizing stations have been made available at the Bell Centre.

The company has also increased the number of cleaning staff working during events.

Evenko has said all tickets to the Bell Centre's events will continue to be non-refundable. 

"There will be no exceptions to this policy," Evenko said in a statement.

"The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with the coronavirus as low for Canada." 

Evenko said the safety of ticket holders is a priority and they will continue to keep in touch with health authorities. 

Some event organizers cancelling

Three upcoming events were cancelled at the Palais des congrès due to concerns about coronavirus, but they were not major international conferences, according to spokesperson Renaud Martel-Théorêt.

About 1,300 people were expected to attend the events. Two were supposed to take place in May and one in April, he said.

He would not specify what the nature of the events were, but said the centre is reminding organizers that Health Canada is still calling it a "low-risk" situation, and is asking them not to cancel. 

Extra hand sanitizer dispensers and posters reminding people to wash their hands have been placed throughout the convention centre.

With files from Jay Turnbull and Ian Down, The Canadian Press


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