Broadway shuts as virus-hit New York bans large gatherings

New York (AFP) –


Broadway suspended performances for a month Thursday as the world's most famous theater district was hit by a ban on large public gatherings imposed on New Yorkers to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

Performances close after 5:00pm (2100 GMT) Thursday and will not start up again until April 13, the Broadway League announced.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier told reporters only schools, hospitals, nursing homes and mass transit facilities would be allowed gatherings of more than 500 from Friday.

The capacity for seated venues is to be reduced by 50 percent, even if the occupancy is normally 500 or less.

The Broadway closure is a major blow for a tourism income stream that brought in more than $26.7 million last week alone.

"Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and wellbeing of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theater industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals," Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a statement.

The shutdown will be even longer than a landmark pause in 2007, when a stagehand strike dropped curtains for 19 days.

New York cultural institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced temporary closures and cancellations on Thursday over the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected 1,300 people in the US.

The Met said it would close from March 13 without giving a reopening date, while the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic cancelled programming through March 31.