The World Economic Forum has been forced to scrap its plans for an in-person annual meeting once again, cancelling a gathering planned for August in Singapore as the city state imposed new restrictions and new Covid-19 outbreaks shake its members’ confidence.
“Regretfully, the tragic circumstances unfolding across geographies, an uncertain travel outlook, differing speeds of vaccination rollout and the uncertainty around new variants combine to make it impossible to realise a global meeting with business, government and civil society leaders from all over the world at the scale which was planned,” the WEF said on Monday.
The forum’s high-octane annual gathering of executives and policymakers usually takes place in Davos in January, but the WEF had already delayed it and moved it in the hope of keeping delegates safer. Last October it had said the annual meeting would be in Lausanne in May and then last December it changed the venue to Singapore and the date to August.
“It was a difficult decision, particularly in view of the great interest of our partners to come together not just virtually but in person,” said Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder. The forum said it would now hold its next annual meeting “in the first half of 2022”, but would not decide on the location and date until later this summer.
The cancellation came days after Singapore reimposed stringent distancing measures following a jump in Covid-19 cases.
The city state on Sunday banned in-person restaurant dining and limited social gatherings to two people after reporting new clusters in recent weeks, including one at Changi airport that could involve the more easily transmissible B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant that was first discovered in India. A separate cluster at a Singaporean hospital includes this variant.
Singapore on Monday also deferred a travel bubble with Hong Kong that was set to start on May 26 “in light of the recent increase in unlinked community cases”, Singapore’s transport ministry said in a statement. This is the second time an attempt to resume flights between the Asian financial hubs has been delayed.
The resurgence of infections in Singapore follows months of single-digit or no locally transmitted daily infections.
The island nation is still set to host the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-profile annual defence summit that marks the first big international event in Singapore since the start of the pandemic last year.