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Japan cancels emperor’s birthday event over coronavirus

The fear of deadly coronavirus prompted Japanese imperial house to cancel event to celebrate monarch’s birthday, local media reported on Monday.

Japan’s Imperial Household Agency confirmed it canceled the birthday event for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace scheduled for Sunday, Kyodo News reported.

“We made the decision to cancel the public event at the palace, which is attended every year by many people in close proximity, after considering the risk of the virus spreading,” Kenji Ikeda, spokesman for Japan’s imperial house, told a news conference.

The novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, central China last December and has killed more than 1,700 people so far. Three deaths, including one in Japan, reported outside China.

The event would be the first birthday celebration of Naruhito who is turning 60 as Japan’s emperor.

He acceded to throne on May 1 after his father Akihito stepped down.

Naruhito’s father and predecessor, Emperor Akihito, 85, officially announced his abdication in April to end his 30-year reign. Akihito is the first monarch to abdicate in 202 years in Japan’s imperial history.

In December 2018, nearly 82,000 people visited the palace for Emperor Akihito’s final birthday address.

The virus has spread to at least 25 other countries including the U.S., the U.K., Singapore, France, Russia, Spain, and India.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak an international health emergency.

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