Long recovery in sight as physios cancel 2021 Dubai conference

An international association of physiotherapists has cancelled its in-person congress in Dubai next April – despite the emirate being named the ‘safest place’ to meet in a recent survey.

World Physiotherapy’s decision to move its biennial flagship online is a stark indicator of how long it might take for physical international conferences to recover from the effects of COVID-19.

In a poll of 4,000 professionals by Messe Frankfurt Middle East Dubai was seen as the safest city in which to hold a trade fair by 77 per cent of respondents.

But in announcing its decision the World Physiotherapy board said there were a ‘range of uncertainties around COVID-19’ such as ‘government travel guidance, social distancing, employer and travel restrictions’, which meant holding an in-person meeting was ‘impossible’.

The 2019 World Physiotherapy Congress, in Geneva, drew 4,500 delegates.

The hosts’ early decision to cancel Dubai 2021 is another signal that a speedy recovery for international events is unlikely as the world still grapples with virus.

Earlier this month, for example, the self-publishing platform WordPress cancelled all its international World Camp conferences  – which typically host more than 1,000 delegates – until 2022.


World Physiotherapy president, Emma Stokes, said: “We are living in such extraordinary times. The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by each and every physiotherapist in our global community.

“World Physiotherapy congresses are a time of sharing and celebration and we are all very disappointed that it seems impossible that we could have gathered together in April next year.

“Hence our decision to move to a virtual event. We truly believe that it will be very important to come together as a global community – to connect and engage in a different way than in previous congresses. We will have new knowledge to share and big questions to consider.”

She added: “We look forward to the opportunities that this virtual congress will offer as we continue to strive to be a global community where every physiotherapist feels connected and engaged.”