‘Battle fatigue’ as Omicron plays havoc with meeting schedules

The spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is causing havoc for meeting planners, with major international events being cancelled or postponed across Europe.

The World Economic Forum has postponed its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The in-person event, which was scheduled for January 17-21, has been pushed back to the Summer.

In the interim, an online series of “State of the World” sessions will take place to bring international leaders together to discuss solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.

“The World Economic Forum will defer its Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in the light of continued uncertainty over the Omicron outbreak,” the group said in a release.

The meeting of billionaires and world leaders typically convenes around 3,000 people. Last year’s annual meeting was switched to Singapore before being cancelled altogether.

Elsewhere ITB Berlin, the travel industry’s largest global exhibition, has been cancelled for the third consecutive year. The event, which was scheduled to take place March 9-13, 2022, was cancelled due to the current Covid-19 situation in Germany and travel restrictions that would limit the number of participants. The show will be live-streamed, and a Digital Business Day will be held on March 17.

European countries have started imposing new restrictions to slow the spread of Omicron, but the variant, first detected in South Africa and Hong Kong, is now believed to be in 89 countries.

France and Germany have introduced travel curbs to tackle Omicron, banning British tourists for the foreseeable future, while the Netherlands has introduced a strict Christmas lockdown.

In the UK, where the virus has seen the quickest spread, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the government “reserves the possibility” of bringing in new rules in England to counter the spread.

The fast-changing situation is causing a headache for organisers of international association meetings and one leader said there was a danger of ‘battle fatigue’ setting in within organisations.

Isabel Bardinet, CEO of the European Society of Cardiology, said: “Now it’s starting again when we all thought we were going back to organising in-person meetings, and the fatigue, and the fact that people are so fed up with it, and it’s so different from one country to the next, is making things more difficult now than it has been in the past two years. There’s real battle fatigue and that’s dangerous. So, it’s about reminding everyone that this is not the moment to drop the ball. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and, no, it’s not an oncoming train. But that’s difficult.”

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