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No shaking hands at London conference after coronavirus scare

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A general view of the QEII centre. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Attendees of a conference in central London have been told not to shake hands, weeks after a British person with coronavirus attended an event at the same venue.

Guests at the Make UK manufacturing conference in Westminster were told on Tuesday to avoid shaking hands with others. TV presenter Steph McGovern was comparing the event and made the announcement at the start of the conference. McGovern didn’t specifically mention the coronavirus but said the precaution was due to things “going around.”

The conference was held at the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Centre in central London, which has already been exposed to one case of the novel coronavirus, officially called COVID-19.

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One of the few Britons to contract COVID-19 attended the UK Bus Summit at the QEII Centre earlier this month. Hundreds of attendees, including two Labour MPs, were subsequently warned to be on the look out for symptoms, according to the BBC.

People arriving at the QEII Centre on Tuesday were greeted with hand sanitiser stations that all guests had to pass through. Three events were taking place at the conference centre on Tuesday, with hundreds of people in the building.

Over 80,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world and just over 2,700 people have died from the virus, which causes pneumonia-like symptoms. The vast majority of cases recorded so far have been in China. There are so far just 13 confirmed cases in Britain.

However, fears are growing that the COVID-19 epidemic could transform into a pandemic. Italy and Iran are currently struggling to contain outbreaks and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday told the world to prepare for a pandemic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus self-isolation advice extended to people returning from Italy

McGovern said the hand shaking ban might seem “daft” but was a precaution.

The COVID-19 epidemic has prompted changes to conferences and events around the world. Trade show Mobile World Congress, due to take place this week in Barcelona, and the Beijing Motor Show have both been cancelled. The World Athletics Indoor Championships in China has also been delayed until next year.

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