The United Arab Emirates has officially requested to postpone the start of the Expo 2020 Dubai until October next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the body that oversees the world fair said Saturday.
Dubai, the glitzy city-state which is part of the UAE, had hoped to attract some 25 million visits to the multi-billion-dollar, six-month event, which was scheduled to launch Oct. 20 this year.
"The government of the United Arab Emirates has formally requested the postponement of World Expo 2020 Dubai," the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions said in a statement.
"Following consultations with the BIE, participating countries and key stakeholders, the UAE has proposed 1 Oct. 2021 – 31 March 2022 as the new opening dates of Expo 2020 Dubai."
The UAE government also requested approval to continue using Expo 2020 Dubai as the event's official name.
The BIE said it would hold a virtual meeting on April 21 to discuss "options for a change of dates".
"The request of the UAE government has been sent following in-depth discussions by the Expo 2020 Dubai steering committee with the organizer and the BIE on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," said the statement.
"A final decision on a change of dates can only be made by a two-thirds majority vote of BIE member states."
Dubai, known for hosting hundreds of conferences annually, has already scrapped a string of cultural and entertainment events in recent weeks over the spread of the deadly disease.
The United Arab Emirates has announced 1,264 cases of coronavirus and nine deaths. It has enforced extensive lockdown measures to curb the spread of the disease including an ongoing nighttime curfew.