Update: On January 30th, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and issued new recommendations. However, the recommendations say that, “The Committee does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available.” Here is the risk assessment from January 31st from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Integrated Systems Europe, the producer of the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) show, released a statement yesterday about the new coronavirus outbreak in China, which has received much publicity and stoked fear regarding international travel, including for the upcoming ISE show, which is scheduled to be held February 10-14 at the Amsterdam RAI. It is the commercial audiovisual industry’s largest trade show, with last year’s show having more than 80,000 attendees and 1,300+ exhibitors.
Globally, according to the World Health Organization, there are just over 7,800 cases of Coronavirus confirmed, most of which are in China, with 170 deaths (updated with information from January 30th situation report).
Integrated Systems Europe’s statement said that ISE will take place as scheduled, including the conferences and opening events. The organization also said:
We are monitoring and following guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), alongside advice given by local health agencies, airports and venues. We are advised that no additional measures are required.
We advise that exhibitors and attendees follow the care and hygiene recommendations recommended by the WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
We in addition will install hand sanitisers in multiple locations around the RAI exhibition building for the duration of the show. We will inform you should there be any further updates to this statement.
This statement might seem frustratingly general or unhelpful for companies that are struggling with difficult decisions about whether or not to attend the show, and would like to see bold action from ISE management to say, tell all the Chinese companies to stay home, but the reality is that that’s not their job, and it’s unfair of our industry to expect that of them.
Deferring to the World Health Organization, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations much better equipped with expertise and information to make decisions on public health matters makes complete and total sense. Integrated Systems Europe should not be the ones to tell all Chinese companies or Chinese attendees to stay away from the show; if the situation ever got to the point where that made sense, actual public health agencies would make that call, not audiovisual trade fair managers. Of the very long list of people who are not experts on the Coronavirus and should not be giving out advice about it, almost everyone in the entire AV industry is on it (myself, and all AV publication editors, included, which is why my main advice is: defer to real experts). If there are any AV’ers out there who also happen to have a PhD in public health and/or epidemiology and a specialization in pandemics, then by all means, leave a comment. But let’s cut ISE management some slack.
(To be clear, I’m not saying that drastic action, like canceling events, would be totally unwarranted, or that this situation isn’t serious. I AM saying that’s it’s very reasonable to wait until actual scientists or governmental agencies give the directive for said actions.)
What all of us are experts on is what we are personally comfortable with. If you have employees who would rather not be traveling right now, then consider letting them stay home. If you want your company to skip this ISE, great! See you in Barcelona. (You will be able to visit the show floor via rAVe’s live trade show coverage, alternatively.) If you want to skip shaking hands with people this ISE, I doubt anyone will blame you. In the meantime, you should take reasonable precautions for disease prevention like washing your hands a lot and never touching your face. You should do these things anyway because, statistically, because you are much, much more likely to die of the regular old flu than you are of this Coronavirus or probably any other virus we’ll see in our lifetimes.
Finally, there’s this thing that has bothered me a lot in all the news coverage of the Coronavirus, and since I’m fortunate enough to have a platform, I’m going to say it: The people in China, for whom the Coronavirus is a real threat, and which will perhaps cost the country billions of dollars, are actual human beings, not just potential vectors of disease. It would do us all well to remember that and speak of them with a bit more compassion, no matter what happens.
These situations, of course, evolve rapidly and what we know next week could be very different from what we know right now. We will update this story if we receive new and relevant information.