image captionThe events had been expected to attract about 20,000 people to Southampton
Public health officials have cancelled two boat shows hours before they were due to start over coronavirus fears.
BOATS2020, and the smaller sailing show MDL Ocean Village, were due to start in Southampton on Friday, with an expected 20,000 visitors over the next 10 days.
The organisers of BOATS2020 said they were told at about 18:30 BST that the event could not go ahead.
Southampton City Council said the decision was “regrettable” but made with public safety in mind.
Lesley Robinson, chief executive of British Marine, which organised BOATS2020, said she was “desperately disappointed” by the cancellation, “especially receiving the news at the eleventh hour before opening”.
She added: “Alongside our exhibitors, we were ready to open a show that exceeded all safety requirements. We are truly perplexed as to why we are unable to run the show at least until Monday in line with the government restrictions imposed yesterday.
“Public health and safety come first and naturally, as the show organiser, British Marine must comply with all guidance.”
image captionBritish Marine’s chief executive Lesley Robinson said she was “desperately disappointed” by the late cancellation
About 230 boats had been brought to the city for the show.
Southampton City Council’s director of public health, Debbie Chase, said: “In Southampton and the South East, we have seen a lower rate of COVID-19 transmissions since lockdown ended.
“However, the national picture shows a concerning rise in cases, and with these events set to attract around 20,000 people from different parts of the UK over a 10-day period, it’s important we act now to reduce the risk of infection.”
She added: “The decision, while regrettable, has been made after detailed analysis of the public health risks and discussions with our colleagues and partner agencies within the city. COVID-19 is still very much with us and we all need to stay alert, particularly at this sensitive time.”