US to hold major international diplomatic meeting 'virtually' due to coronavirus concerns

US to hold major international diplomatic meeting 'virtually' due to coronavirus concerns
  • Clock-gray 11:45
  • calendar-gray 12 March 2020

The US State Department announced Wednesday it will hold the upcoming meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) Foreign Ministers virtually, rather than in person in Pittsburgh, amid the global coronavirus pandemic, APA reports citing CNN.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the United States has decided to host the upcoming G7 ministerial virtually by video teleconference instead of gathering in Pittsburgh, March 24-25," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. "We thank the city of Pittsburgh for its willingness to host this year's G7 ministerial and for the support and assistance planning this year's event. We look forward to holding future events there."

Timothy McNulty, the communications director for the Pittsburgh Mayor's Office, said they welcomed the decision.

"It comes the same day that we're announcing the city's St. Patrick's Day parade is being cancelled, and is in line with CDC warnings about social distancing and large events," he said in an email to CNN. "Canceling the meeting will also allow our public safety personnel to focus fully on COVID-19 preparations."

The United States holds the 2020 presidency for the G7, whose members include the US, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada. All of the countries in the organization are currently grappling with the outbreak of COVID-19. Italy has imposed strict restrictions on travel and activities nationwide in an attempt to contain the virus.

The G7 Ministerial is the latest diplomatic event to be sidelined for fear of spreading the coronavirus. A senior Trump administration official announced at the end of February that the US was postponing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders meeting that was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas.
"As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the United States, in consultation with ASEAN partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the ASEAN leaders meeting previously scheduled for mid-March," they said. "The United States values our relationships with the nations of this critical region, and looks forward to future meetings."
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