March 6, 2020 / 11:57 PM / 23 days ago

World Economic Forum postpones event in Brazil as coronavirus cases rise

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The World Economic Forum (WEF) has postponed a Latin America conference set to be held in Brazil at the end of April as a precautionary measure, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country rising on Friday to 13.

Public events are being called off around the world as the coronavirus spreads and people seek to avoid gatherings that could provide a venue to spread the disease.

“Given the dynamic situation surrounding the coronavirus globally and after careful consideration of what it means for our stakeholders, the World Economic Forum and its partners in Brazil have agreed to reschedule this meeting to a later date,” a WEF spokeswoman said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, Brazil’s Health Ministry confirmed 13 coronavirus cases in the country, up from 8 on Thursday.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in a televised address that the country will reinforce efforts to counter the virus at hospitals and ports of entry, while urging people to follow the advice of medical professionals.

“Although the situation could get worse, there is no reason for panic,” he said in brief pre-recorded remarks.

Financial services company Mastercard (MA.N) said on Friday it would close its office in Sao Paulo after one of its employees was diagnosed with coronavirus. The firm said it would continue to operate normally and asked staff to work from home.

Cases are still mostly concentrated in the country’s financial capital of Sao Paulo, but vacation hotspot Rio de Janeiro and the coastal state of Espirito Santo have also recorded single cases.

Friday also marked the first confirmed case in northeast Brazil, in Bahia state, according to the ministry.

Reporting by Marcela Ayers, Gabriel Araujo and Aluisio Alves; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Brad Haynes and Sonya Hepinstall

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