Coronavirus: DataFest 20 and VisitScotland Expo cancelled amid Covid-19 health concerns

Two of Scotland’s key industry events have been cancelled due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

DataFest 20 has cancelled its remaining events across Scotland due to coronavirus. Picture: Steve Cox
DataFest 20 has cancelled its remaining events across Scotland due to coronavirus. Picture: Steve Cox

DataFest 20, a two-week data and artificial intelligence festival that is already underway across Scotland, has struck off its remaining events while VisitScotland Expo, billed as the key trade event in the travel sector, has been pulled due to a “significant number of cancellations” by attendees as a result of the virus.

The cancellations come as a blow to Scotland’s conferences and events industry, with organisers of VisitScotland Expo previously expecting to host more than 2,000 attendees from 30 countries on 1 and 2 April at P&J Live in Aberdeen.

DataFest, which takes place throughout Scotland, will no longer hold core events including the Data Summit – due to be headlined by acclaimed astronaut Tim Peake.

DataFest 20 has cancelled its remaining events across Scotland due to coronavirus. Picture: Contributed

The announcements came on the same day as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “inappropriate that we continue as normal” and that she will recommend the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people to protect front-line services.

A spokesman for DataFest 20 said: “The Data Lab has taken the extremely difficult decision to cancel remaining events as part of DataFest20.

“Having carried out a thorough risk assessment, remaining core events will be cancelled including Data Summit, Data Talent Scotland, Data Tech, two STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] events, and our executive dinner.

“We are recommending all fringe events be cancelled; however, we cannot force organisers to do so.”

Fringe events, run by external partners under the DataFest umbrella, include hackathons, debates, meetups and various innovative activities focused on data innovation and collaboration.

DataFest said it would not reschedule the remaining events and will issue full refunds for the face value of tickets.

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, added: “We have been monitoring the situation for some time but it is clear that we are already seeing significant cancellations from key countries, as well as concerned enquiries about the event and hesitancy from attendees to travel.

“With the number of cases of coronavirus increasing across the world, we did not want to contribute to its potential spread across Scotland and beyond.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation flagged the impact of coronavirus on the sector, with Scottish salmon – the UK’s top food export – now facing import restrictions in key markets as a result of measures to help contain the outbreak.

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