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US to hold major international diplomatic meeting 'virtually' due to coronavirus concerns

The U.S. State Department will hold the upcoming Group of Seven foreign ministers' meeting virtually, instead of in Pittsburgh, amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

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The U.S. State Department announced Wednesday it will hold the upcoming meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers virtually, rather than in person in Pittsburgh, amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the United States has decided to host the upcoming G7 ministerial virtually by video teleconference instead of gathering in Pittsburgh, March 24-25," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. "We thank the city of Pittsburgh for its willingness to host this year's G7 ministerial and for the support and assistance planning this year's event. We look forward to holding future events there."

The United States holds the 2020 presidency for the G7, whose members include the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada. All of the countries in the organization are currently grappling with the outbreak of COVID-19. Italy has imposed strict restrictions on travel and activities nationwide in an attempt to contain the virus.

The G7 ministerial is the latest diplomatic event to be sidelined for fear of spreading the coronavirus. A senior Trump administration official announced at the end of February that the U.S. was postponing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders meeting that was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas.

"As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the United States, in consultation with ASEAN partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the ASEAN leaders meeting previously scheduled for mid-March," the official said. "The United States values our relationships with the nations of this critical region and looks forward to future meetings."

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund announced in early March that their spring meetings would be held in a "virtual format."

"Like everyone else around the world, we have been deeply concerned by the evolving situation of the Coronavirus and the human tragedy surrounding it. Given growing health concerns related to the virus, the Management of the IMF and World Bank Group and their Executive Boards have agreed to implement a joint plan to adapt the 2020 IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings to a virtual format," IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass said in a joint statement.