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Cherry blossom festival in U.S. capital to scale down due to virus

WASHINGTON — A major cherry blossom festival held in the U.S. capital each spring will be scaled down this year due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the organizer said Wednesday.


The National Cherry Blossom Festival attracts around 1.5 million people annually from the United States and abroad to Washington where they walk among the blossoms lining the Potomac River and attend other Japan-related events. It is scheduled from March 20 to April 12 this year.


“The health and safety of the performers, guests, volunteers and festival staff is our priority,” Diana Mayhew, the head of the organization in charge of the event, said in a press release, adding that some events slated through March 31 will be postponed or canceled.


The opening ceremony scheduled for March 21 will not take place as planned at the Warner Theater. The organizer said it is “looking at options including live streaming the event.” A kite festival on March 28 is also canceled.


The organizer said it is deciding what changes will be made to events scheduled into April.


The cherry blossoms serve as a reminder of the friendship between the United States and Japan. In 1912, about 3,000 nursery cherry trees were gifted to Washington by Tokyo.


The announcement came as the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the spread of the coronavirus a pandemic. The United States is seeing a surge in infection cases, which reportedly surpassed 1,000 on Tuesday.

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