The Juno Awards, Canada’s most prominent music awards, have been cancelled in the wake of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), the organization behind the Junos, made the announcement Thursday morning in a joint statement with the city of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan.
“We are devastated to cancel this national celebration of music, but at this time of global uncertainty, the health, safety and well-being of all Canadians must stand at the forefront of any decisions that impact our communities,” CARAS said in a statement.
“We know this is the right decision based on the information we currently have and are continuing to receive. The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve rapidly and we urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.”
Junos-related events had been slated to kick off in Saskatoon later Thursday in the run-up to Sunday’s televised gala at the SaskTel Centre.
The decision to cancel developed quickly overnight. As of Wednesday afternoon, Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, had said the province was keeping tabs on various upcoming events, but hadn’t advised against the Junos moving forward this weekend.
“Don’t go to the show if you’re sick,” Shahab had noted at a press conference.
“Even if you have a ticket or you’re a celebrity who’s come, if you land in Saskatoon and you’ve got a fever and cough, stay in your hotel.”
The decision to proceed earned criticism across social media Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, as myriad Canadian musicians, music industry figures and journalists were making their way to Saskatoon.
Among those posting were local doctors, medical workers and health care advocates urging Juno organizers, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark to pull the plug on this year’s event.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially labelled the outbreak a pandemic. As of Thursday morning, there were more than 120 presumptive and confirmed cases reported in Canada, with one death.
For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for seniors and those with underlying health issues, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover — people with mild illness in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks, according to WHO.