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Hugely-popular Houston rodeo cancelled due to virus

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Houston (AFP)

The Houston Rodeo, which attracts 2.5 million visitors a year, was abruptly cancelled on Wednesday midway through its 20-day run due to the coronavirus outbreak, organizers said.

The event includes rodeo competitions, livestock and horse shows, farm displays and star-studded concerts as well as barbecues, retail stalls and a fairground carnival.

"The safety and wellbeing of our guests and our community is our top priority," the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo said in a statement.

"Out of precaution, the city has decided that this is the best course of action for our community... Having to close early is extremely difficult."

About $390 million was spent at the 2019 rodeo, supporting nearly 6,000 jobs in Texas, according to official figures.

Acts booked for this year's event included Lizzo and Gwen Stefani, both triple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriters.

"This decision has not come easily. But the health and safety of the people in our region is paramount," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Many US events have been hit by the outbreak, with Austin's 10-daySouth By Southwest culture and tech gathering cancelled, and the Coachella music festival postponed until October.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 31 deaths in the US while a John Hopkins University coronavirus tracker indicates 1,110 infections. Texas has confirmed 13 infections but no deaths.

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