Apple and Netflix have followed Facebook and Twitter by pulling out of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, later this month.

All four firms justified their decision not to attend by citing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, which has so far seen more than 160 confirmed cases and resulted in 11 deaths in the US.

Netflix’s withdrawal means that five film screenings and a panel will be cancelled, while Apple’s SXSW events included the world premiere of new series set to come to Apple TV+ later this year.

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The organisers of SXSW have so far refused to cancel or postpone the multimedia festival, despite the high-profile withdrawals. 

A petition calling for the festival to be cancelled has received more than 45,000 signatures on Change.org since it was set up last week.

“I believe that having an event like this is irresponsible amid an outbreak,” stated the petition’s founder, who claimed it will contribute to the spread of the deadly virus.

The festival, which is scheduled to take place on 13-22 March, updated its website on Monday to provide attendees with additional information about the decision to not cancel.

Safety resources were provided, urging attendees to wash their hands, cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching their eyes, and to not attend the event if feeling unwell.

SXSW also acknowledged the Change.org petition but said that it would be following the advice of health authorities rather than the public.

“SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event,” the organisers said.

“As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority.”

There have been 11 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Texas, though the Austin Department of Public Health said in a statement that the threat was currently not a high one.

The latest guidance, published on 28 February, stated: “While we expect to experience an increased number of cases in the United States, the current risk of person-to-person spread in our community remains low.”

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