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World Economic Forum postpones Davos meeting on Covid uncertainty

A logo sits on a window at the entrance hall of the Congress Center ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.
Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The annual January get-together of world leaders, billionaires and executives in Davos, Switzerland will be postponed due to health and safety concerns over Covid-19.

“The World Economic Forum will defer its Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in the light of continued uncertainty over the Omicron outbreak,” the group said in a release Monday. “It is now planned for early summer.”

The in-person event had been scheduled from Jan. 17 to Jan. 21 with the aim of addressing “economic, environmental, political and social fault-lines exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Organizers say an online series of “State of the World” sessions will be held instead, “to focus on shaping solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”

WEF said pandemic conditions had made it “extremely difficult” to stage a global in-person meeting next month, adding that the transmissibility of the omicron Covid variant and its impact on travel and mobility had made deferral necessary.

The event is held annually in Davos, a picturesque Alpine ski resort, and is regarded by many as a cornerstone of international relations. It typically draws heads of government, business executives and activists from around the world to discuss global issues — although it is often criticized for being out of touch with reality.

U.S. President Joe Biden had been expected to skip the January meeting, Bloomberg reported last month, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Former President Donald Trump attended WEF twice while in office, in 2018 and 2020. He had planned to attend in 2019 but canceled this trip due to a partial government shutdown.

The postponement of the January meeting comes at a time when the omicron Covid variant is spreading rapidly worldwide, prompting concerns that health services in some places could soon be overwhelmed.

The World Health Organization, which designated the strain as a variant of concern on Nov. 26, said over the weekend that omicron had been detected in 89 countries so far and the number of cases is doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission.

The U.N. health agency stressed that much is still unknown about the variant and more data is required to understand the severity of the illness it causes.

WEF had delayed its January 2021 meeting until the summer of this year, before eventually canceling the postponed meeting that had been set to take place in Singapore in August.

A virtual conference was held earlier this year.

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