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UPDATE 2-Singapore Airshow to go ahead with reduced attendance, cancellations over virus

* Asia’s biggest aerospace and defence event still on

* Organiser to step up precautionary measures for safety

* Sixteen companies cancel participation from event

* Key aviation meeting gets shelved (Recasts, writes through)

SINGAPORE, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The Singapore Airshow, Asia’s biggest aerospace gathering, will go ahead as planned next week despite China’s virus epidemic prompting some firms to pull out, but a key meeting of aviation officials has been cancelled, organisers said on Tuesday.

The trade portion of the airshow, held every two years, is set to begin on Feb. 11 under the shadow of the virus outbreak that has prompted measures by several nations, including the wealthy city-state, to contain the spread of infections.

Singapore banned entry to all Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China, which had raised concerns over the staging of the event.

The move comes as the death toll in mainland China from the flu-like virus rose to 425, with two other fatalities reported in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

The World Health Organization last week declared the virus, which has spread to almost two dozen countries, a global emergency.

“In view of the evolving 2019 novel coronavirus situation, the organiser will introduce enhanced precautionary measures to safeguard the well-being and safety of all attendees,” Experia Events Pte Ltd said in a statement on Tuesday.

Additional temperature screenings will be conducted at the show’s access points.

However, Experia said an aviation leadership summit scheduled on the eve of the event will be cancelled as this will allow aviation executives to work out responses to the virus outbreak.

Aviation data firm OAG said there will be over 25,000 fewer flights operated to, from and within China this week compared to two weeks ago, with 30 airlines halting services.

Citing industry sources, Reuters reported earlier that the summit, which was to involve 300 aviation executives, comprising government officials, civil aviation authorities and airline executives, had been cancelled.

International Air Transport Association Director General Alexandre de Juniac will no longer travel to Singapore, said a spokesman representing the airline body.

Ten companies from China, including Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, which is developing the C919 narrowbody jet, and another six exhibitors from four other countries, will not attend the airshow, Experia said.

Business jet manufacturers Bombardier Inc,, Textron Inc and General Dynamics Corp’s Gulfstream division are among those that have pulled out.

However, Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin Corp, among the biggest exhibitors, said on Tuesday that they still plan to attend the show.

The lower attendance at the airshow, which is used as a barometer of the industry’s health, is a poor omen for a sector grappling with a sharp fall in travel demand due to the virus.

At the last show in 2018, there were 54,000 trade attendees from 147 countries and 1,062 participating companies, some of whom end up signing deals covering commercial aviation, defence, maintenance and repair operations and business jets. (Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Clarence Fernandez & Shri Navaratnam)

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