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Will Coronavirus Impact Congress Attendance?

Written by Kirstie Turner  | Content and Editorial Assistant, EMG-Health

New cases of coronavirus are appearing in all corners of the world and the disease is now on the brink of becoming a pandemic. Along with schools, offices, and cruise liners in quarantine, travel is being monitored and restricted in many countries to avoid further spread. The Chinese government is due to postpone their annual March political congress amid fears of the disease spreading further.

Now, we are also seeing the cancellation of conferences on a global scale, such as the Mobile World Congress Barcelona, which last year saw an attendance of 109,500, with a high calibre of names set to speak this year, such as Novartis’ CEO Vas Narasimhan and Nokia’s President and CEO, Rajeev Suri. The cancellation follows a number of high-profile companies, such as Facebook and Amazon, withdrawing from the event. This highlights that it is not just travel in and around China and other affected Asian countries that is being impacted, since the congress is just one of many annual events that are facing cancellations this year due to coronavirus.

One of the most important events in many healthcare professionals’ calendars is the annual congress in their respective therapeutic areas. These events offer the opportunity to share knowledge, best practice, and ground-breaking research that has come to light over the past year, as well as providing a platform for networking with peers in the field. If, like the Mobile World Congress, we begin to see cancellations of healthcare congresses over the next few months, it is critical that healthcare advances are not hindered as a result.

The medical community are now also seeing the impact, with some events choosing to postpone in light of the outbreak. The 32nd European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in Vienna, which was set to go ahead from the 11th – 15th March, has since been postponed to 15th – 19th July after the society evaluated the epidemic and the recommendations from the Austrian health authorities. They highlighted that the safety, health, and well-being of the delegates and partners remained their highest priority. Even for the events still going ahead as planned, there may be a reluctance to attend from concerned healthcare professionals, many of whom work in hospitals and cannot afford the risk of quarantine when they return.

As the place for discussing the latest developments in the healthcare world, congresses may well be hosting valuable debate on the topic of coronavirus, including discussions around the best approach to avoiding the pandemic that is thought to be on the horizon. Late-breaking sessions on the topic have already been announced at some events. With several pharmaceutical companies investing in the rush to develop a treatment, we must hope that the healthcare industry can come together and collaborate to solve this global health crisis to avoid further infection across the world.

For those who are travelling to congress amidst the coronavirus outbreak, please seek out the travel advice given by both your government/health officials and those of the country you are intending to visit.

If you are due to host a symposium at an upcoming congress that has been impacted by the recent coronavirus outbreak, please contact EMJ Director Dan Healy on +44 (0) 1245 334 456 or +44 (0) 7710 501 638 to discuss how we can help you deliver your message to a wide and relevant audience of HCPs.