Fri, Jan 31, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Virus Fears: Taipei book fair postponed to May

By Dennis Xie  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Taipei International Book Exhibition visitors attend a forum organized by Mayday guitarist Shitou, front row center sitting on a chair, at the exhibition on Feb. 16 last year.

Photo provided by China Times Publishing Co

The Taipei International Book Exhibition, originally scheduled to begin on Tuesday next week, has been postponed to May 7 to prevent further spread of a novel coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Culture said in a news release yesterday.

The ministry decided to postpone the six-day book fair following a risk assessment meeting on Wednesday with co-organizer the Taipei Book Fair Foundation and other attending publishers.

An estimated 600,000 people visit the exhibition every year, while more than 1,000 salons and activities are held during the period, making such a large-scale indoor fair with high foot traffic and frequent person-to-person exchanges a safety concern, as reported cases of the coronavirus infection originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan have increased sharply over the past week, the ministry said.

The Central Epidemic Command Center has not called for a suspension of large public assemblies, but many of the invited publishers and authors from nearly 50 countries expressed concern about participating in the exhibition, with some saying they plan to cancel, it said.

Children’s books are one of the highlights this year, as for the first time, they would be displayed at the main hall, but parents and teachers might be apprehensive about taking kids to the fair, it said.

Delaying the event could prevent such losses, help maintain exhibition quality and offer visitors a better experience, it said.

The ministry and the foundation will establish an ad hoc committee to handle affairs relating to the delay and offer assistance, as well as ensuring the rights of participants and people who have already bought tickets, it said.

The exhibition will still be held in the same venue — the Taipei World Trade Center’s Exhibition Halls 1 and 2 — from May 7 to 12, according to its official Web site.

The ministry will continue to work with society to promote reading and book sales, Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said.

However, some have expressed misgivings about the ministry’s decision, including Locus Publishing Co chairman Rex How (郝明義), a former presidential adviser, who said that postponing the exhibition might only feed into public fears about the virus.

The outbreak in Taiwan is still under control, while a confusion about mask supply can be attributed to panic buying, he wrote in an open letter to Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on his Facebook page.

Postponing the book fair would belie the command center’s reassurances about the disease, and the public might no longer believe information released by the government about the outbreak, he wrote, adding that other large-scale events at the trade center might be canceled as well.

In related news, the Taipei International Comics and Animation Festival, which attracts about 400,000 visitors every year, is to be held as scheduled from today until Tuesday next week at the Taipei World Trade Center Nangang Exhibition Hall, organizer the Chinese Animation and Comic Publishers Association said.

This year’s Taipei Game Show will also be held as scheduled from Thursday to Sunday next week at the same venue, organizer the Taipei Computer Association said.

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