Elbow bumps and bows: Singapore air show opens despite virus

This image made from video shows the exterior of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Singapore, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. A middle-aged businessman from southern England unwittingly carried the new virus across two continents and unwittingly infected at least 11 people in three countries, in just one example that illustrates how China's outbreak could turn into a global pandemic amid fast-moving international travel. The businessman contracted the virus while attending a gas industry conference in the Grand Hyatt in Singapore in January. (AP Photo)

Singapore's air show took off Tuesday with the usual ribbon cutting and displays of aerial prowess, as many industry insiders shrugged off concerns over the virus outbreak that has decimated the regional travel industry.

Some visitors heeded warnings from their Singaporean hosts to avoid handshakes and other close contact to keep from spreading the virus that has sickened tens of thousands of people. But many others just carried on as usual after submitting to multiple temperature checks on their way to the venue, considering it just one risk of doing business.

Singapore has reported 45 cases of the virus, which emerged in central China's Wuhan. A business meeting at a city hotel last month is thought to have resulted in multiple people from several countries becoming infected. But city authorities opted to go ahead with the air show, taking extra precautions such as limiting the number of visitors, requiring temperature checks and barring entry into Singapore by any foreigners who had visited China in the past two weeks.

“A massive amount of investment and planning goes into these events. Canceling an event of this magnitude would be a major decision,” said Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.

“You need to make a risk assessment. That's a challenge we could do without,” Herdman said.

Some 930 companies from more than 100 countries are attending. Still, many booths stood empty and the number of visitors was sharply lower than usual, participants said.

“It's painful,” said David Fountain of Borsight Inc., an Ogden, Utah-based company that provides data and voice communications systems and equipment for aircraft, one of many exhibits in the vast but somewhat empty USA Pavilion at the air show.

Outside, several big “chalets” of U.S. companies stood empty, with signs on the doors saying they were closed due to concerns over the coronavirus. The 70 exhibitors that canceled plans to attend, most after Singapore raised its health alert from yellow to orange last week, include Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Co., Bombadier, De Haviland, Gulfstream and Honeywell Aerospace.