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Google cancels internal conference over coronavirus concerns

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Google cancelled a major internal gathering over concerns about the spread of coronavirus, the latest in a wave of events and conferences being called off around the world.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Google cancelled a major internal gathering over concerns about the spread of coronavirus, the latest in a wave of events and conferences being called off around the world.

The internet giant's sales and marketing event was set to take place in Las Vegas in March, a Google spokesman said. "In light of the evolving coronavirus situation we made the decision to cancel an internal event that would have brought thousands of employees together from across two continents," the spokesman said.

Companies and event organisers are scrapping large gatherings of people out of fear they could foster the spread of the respiratory virus known as Covid-19, which has killed more than 2,800 people and spread to 55 countries and territories.

Switzerland has banned any gathering of more than 1,000 people; a massive trade fair in Berlin was cancelled last-minute, and Facebook Inc on Thursday called off its May event for developers. The Game Developers Conference, set to open March 16 in San Francisco, is also at risk after Microsoft Corp, Electronic Arts Inc and Sony Corp all pulled out. Google's biggest annual event - I/O - is still set for early May.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, also said on Friday that one of its employees had been diagnosed with the virus. The worker had spent time in the company's Zurich office before showing symptoms, the spokesman said. The staffer contracted coronavirus after travelling to an affected area, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg News. Google will also ban employee travel to and from South Korea and Japan starting on March 2, according to the memo.

The broader impact of the virus on Google's business is unclear. The company's advertising revenue could be affected by a general economic slowdown, particularly as the thousands of small businesses that buy ads on its websites have trouble importing products from China. The Google spokesman declined to comment beyond confirming the event cancellation.

BLOOMBERG