The World Economic Forum will defer its annual meeting in Switzerland’s Davos because of continuing uncertainty over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The summit – an annual meeting of high-profile economically powerful nations and corporate leaders – was scheduled to take place between January 17 and 21. It is now planned for early summer.
Last year too the Davos summit was deferred over Covid fears; in February 2020 the WEF said it would be postponed by several months (and shifted to Singapore) before being cancelled..
In a statement issued Monday, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said the pandemic and existing restrictions on travel and movement “make it extremely difficult to delivery a global in-person meeting”.
“Despite stringent health protocols, the transmissibility of Omicron and its impact on travel and mobility have made deferral necessary… the health and safety of everyone involved in physical meetings – participants, collaborators and host community – have always been the Forum’s priority,” the WEF said.
Participants will instead join a headline series of ‘State of the World’ sessions bringing together global leaders online to focus on shaping solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first detected in South Africa last month, has spread alarmingly rapidly across the UK, mainland Europe and over 89 other countries, including India.
The variant is widely believed to be significantly more infectious than the Delta strain that wreaked havoc worldwide, as well as possessing some vaccine-evasion mutations.
European countries have announced restrictions on movement and shopping, particularly ahead of the Christmas holiday season; Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a shutdown last week and his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, is believed to be considering similarly strict measures.
The UK has announced record numbers of Covid cases since the Omicron strain was detected.
Switzerland has reported over 11.75 lakh COVID-19 cases and nearly 12,000 deaths, so far.
EU chief Urusula von der Leyen has warned that the Omicron strain could become dominant in Europe by next month, but insisted her 27-nation bloc had ample vaccines to fight the virus.
Omicron cases are doubling in 1.5 to three days in areas with community transmission, the WHO said,
With input from AFP