Shortly after 15:00 CET on 13 March, the European Broadcasting Union published the following statement regarding the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Eurovision 2020.
EBU Statment on the Coronavirus / COVID-19 and Eurovision 2020
“The EBU is closely monitoring the situation concerning the spread of the coronavirus and keeping abreast of the latest advice and guidelines from the WHO and national health authorities.
We are working closely with Dutch Host Broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS and the City of Rotterdam to explore different potential scenarios for the Eurovision Song Contest 2020.
However, with 2 months to go until the 3 live shows on 12, 14 and 16 May, and a rapidly changing situation both in the Netherlands and the countries of the participating broadcasters, it is still too early to make any final decisions.
With this in mind, we’re continuing to work together as a team on preparations to host the 65th Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam”.
Eurovision 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic
The EBU’s statement comes two days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled the coronavirus a pandemic and one day after several European countries, including the Netherlands, introduced sweeping measures in a bid to delay the spread of the virus.
Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has previously said that he wants any decision to cancel the Eurovision Song Contest to be made by April 5 or 6 — the date that organisers plan to start building the Eurovision 2020 stage inside the Rotterdam Ahoy.
Aboutaleb was speaking to regional news station RTV Rijnmond, shortly after the Dutch government announced a series of new restrictions meant to curb the spread of coronavirus on Thursday. He also confirmed that staging Eurovision without an audience remains an option.
The Netherlands: Coronavirus Restrictions
The Netherlands has imposed a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people as it works to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced this and a series of other restrictions during a press conference on Thursday afternoon. Colleges and universities have been told to offer lectures online as much as possible. Concerts have been cancelled. And all football matches — from the amateur ranks to the Premier League — have been called off for the rest of the month. By the end of Thursday two of the country’s national treasures — The Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum — shut their doors. The Anne Franke House will also close to visitors to comply with the rules.
The restrictions will remain in place until March 31. Naturally this has raised questions about whether Eurovision 2020 will take place. The fact that the restrictions have an end date suggests the government will pause to assess what is a very unpredictable situation.
What’s clear, though, is that on Thursday the number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands rose by 22% from a day earlier, bringing the total to 614. The Prime Minister justified the restrictions in the name of public health. He told journalists: “An important goal of the phased approach is to prevent such a peak in infections that would result in the hospitals being overwhelmed.”
Will Eurovision 2020 take place despite coronavirus?
It’s an open question whether Eurovision will take place. For now, major events set for the Netherlands this May — including Eurovision, the Invictus Games and the Dutch Grand Prix — remain on the calendar.
But Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb made it clear that “it’s still too early” to make a decision regarding Eurovision.
“The government’s measures are in place at least until end of March. This means that between the end of March and May 16, we still have seven weeks.”
“For me the final day [to make a decision] is the moment we start to build up the stage. At that moment you have to clarify: will it take place or not? We have two options. The EBU and Avrotros can decide about organising or not. If their decision contradicts the medical advice I get, and in my opinion we have to cancel, I have to take my responsibility. But it’s too early for that now.”
When asked about whether Eurovision could take place but without an audience, he said that is an option. He added that that is not his decision to take. That decision falls with Said Kasmi, the city councillor who oversees tourism.