The festival was scheduled to begin later this week.

The BFI Flare Festival has been cancelled because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, just days before it was supposed to begin. The festival was scheduled to begin on Wednesday (18 March) and last through to 29 March.

The festival was supposed to show off 50 features, 85 short films as well as various guest appearances and special events. The BFI confirmed that the event would not be rescheduled due to the “busy annual” schedule that takes place on the BFI Southbank.

Defending their decision to cancel so late, BFI said in a statement: “We were hoping that we could continue with Flare as planned but the situation in regard to Covid-19 has escalated rapidly and we have been reviewing this on a daily basis.

“We now feel that, despite this being short notice, this is the right decision in such an unprecedented situation.”

They added: “BFI Flare is a very special and long-standing festival with a loyal and dedicated following and we realise that this is a very disappointing situation for audiences, our staff and festival teams and all of the incredibly talented and passionate filmmakers involved.”

However, it added that the event could go partially digital, with certain elements being available on the BFI Player streaming service.

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak is causing lots of cancellations in global sporting events, like football, Formula 1 and rugby. However, it has also cancelled the rest of Madonna’s Madame X tourRuPaul’s DragCon LA and the GLAAD Media Awards, while delaying several Disney films like The New Mutants and the live-action remake of Mulan as well as Pride events in American cities like Los Angeles, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

The coronavirus outbreak was labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week.

WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed that the number of cases of the coronavirus outside China had increased 13-fold in two weeks, and said he was “deeply concerned” by “alarming levels of inaction”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it has been “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and that cases will “rise sharply”, and further warned that “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

A further statement from Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected at 5:30pm today (16 March).

Related: LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to coronavirus for three reasons