Picture used for illustrative purpose.
The World Economic Forum cancelled its 2021 annual meeting scheduled for Singapore in three months’ time on Monday, saying it was not possible to hold such a large, global event due to COVID-19.
“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,” it said.
WEF had already pushed back its special meeting in Singapore, initially scheduled for mid-May, following the announcement last year it was moving from its usual home in the Swiss Alps due to the pandemic situation in Europe.
The city-state has in recent days imposed some of the tightest restrictions since it exited a lockdown last year to combat a spike in local COVID-19 infections.
Acknowledging WEF’s decision to cancel the event, the Singapore trade ministry said on Monday that it “fully appreciates the challenges caused by the ongoing global pandemic, particularly for a large meeting with a broad span of international participants.”
The WEF’s next annual meeting will instead take place in the first half of 2022. Its location and date will be determined based on an assessment of the situation later this summer, it added in a statement.
The Geneva-based institution said the next annual meeting would instead take place in the first half of 2022, with the date and location to be determined later this year.
“It was a difficult decision, particularly in view of the great interest of our partners to come together not just virtually but in person, and to contribute to a more resilient, more inclusive and more sustainable world,” said WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab.
Britons return to Portugal: Sun-hungry Britons landing in Portugal on Monday after a four-month coronavirus travel ban between the two countries was lifted at midnight were elated to be back on holiday.
“It’s fantastic. The feeling is unbelievable. We got the sun, the people, the beaches. Can’t wait,” said British tourist Matthew Bolden, giving the thumbs up at the arrivals gate at Lisbon airport.
Twenty-two flights from Britain were due to land in Portugal on Monday, with most heading to the southern Algarve region, famous for its beaches and golf courses but nearly deserted over the past months as the pandemic kept tourists away.
“It feels amazing. Happy, everyone’s happy. We were on the first flight out of the UK,” said Kim, 27, who arrived from Manchester at Faro airport, where Algarve tourism office workers handed out packs of hand sanitiser and face masks.
Tourism businesses hope the return of Britons, who pumped around 3.2 billion euros ($3.9 billion) into Portugal’s economy in 2019, will provide a much-needed boost to the sector, accounting in normal times for 15% of the country’s GDP.
“We were massively affected by the pandemic. It was so sad to see the arrivals gate empty. But today it’s better. It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Maria Joao, 55, whose tiny shop in Lisbon airport sells snacks.
Visitors from Britain must present evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken 72 hours before boarding their flights to Portugal and there is no need to quarantine for COVID-19 when returning home.
Portuguese doctor Rute Castelhano, who has been battling the pandemic in Britain, was exhausted but over-the-moon to see her parents at Lisbon airport after months apart.
“I’m so happy to see my family again,” she said through hugs and tears. “It’s great to be back home.”
Tourists from European countries with fewer than 500 infections per 100,000 people were also allowed in for the first time on Monday.
Portugal, which imposed a strict four-month lockdown to tackle a devastating COVID-19 surge in January, has reopened restaurants and shops but some capacity limitations remain in place and restaurants must close at 10:30 p.m.
Masks must be worn while walking on the beach. “We are still living in a pandemic,” cautioned Marisa Semedo, manager of a riverside cafe kiosk in Lisbon. “They must take it easy, don’t drink too much, don’t get out of control.
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