International conferences put back due to coronavirus outbreak

Kim Yun-mi  Published 2020.02.13  14:22  Updated 2020.02.13 16:25


Korea’s medical societies are rushing to delay the schedule for international conferences, originally planned to take place in February and March, for fear of local transmissions of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.

The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences (KAMS) said its member societies put off four large international academic conferences initially scheduled for February and March.

On Thursday last week, KAMS sent a notification to each medical society, recommending them to adjust their conference schedules to protect the safety of conference participants.

“The World Health Organization declared the Public Health Crisis of International Concern on COVID-19 on Jan. 30, and many reports raised a possibility of infections in countries where many people visit Wuhan, the epicenter. So, there is a concern over the spread of COVID-19 in Korea,” KAMS said. “For the safety of participants in planned academic conferences, we recommend that societies actively adjust or delay the event schedule.”

International academic conferences, approved to be held in Korea, do not need a review again for a change of the date, place, programs, or cancellation of the event, KAMS noted.

To prevent economic losses from any penalties in the event of termination of the academic conference due to a natural disaster and an outbreak of infectious disease, societies must state a special clause in the contract, KAMS emphasized.

However, observers said societies that have long prepared for international conferences are likely to suffer losses.

The four societies that notified a delay of an international conference from February and March are the Korean Society of Interventional Neuroradiology, the Korean Society of Interventional Radiology, the Korean Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and the Korean Society of Hematology.

The Korean Society of Interventional Neuroradiology postponed the 14th Asia-Australian Federation of Intervention and Therapeutic Neuroradiology (AAFITN 2020) from March to July. The event runs biennially in Asia and Australia.

According to the neuroradiology society’s secretariat, the AAFITN 2020 was to gather over 800 people from 35 countries. The society is discussing with a venue rental company, a hotel, and an airliner over penalties caused by the delayed schedule.

An official at the secretariat said because of the overdue decision of putting off the event, the secretariat will come up with detailed losses late this month.

The Korean Society of Interventional Radiology also put back the International Intensive Course for Interventional Radiology (IICIR 2020) from February to late June.

The Korean Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine postponed the “Annual Scientific Meeting of Asian Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ASMRM) & the International Congress on MRI (ICMRI) 2020” from March to July. The event is a massive one, inviting about 1,200 experts from 30 countries every year.

“It was a decision for the prevention of the infectious disease and everyone’s safety,” the magnetic resonance in medicine society said. However, the society is having difficulties adjusting the schedules for invited speakers from overseas and panelists, sources said.

The Korean Society of Hematology delayed the International Conference of Korean Society of Hematology (ICKSH 2020) from March to August. Last year, more than 1,300 people from 41 countries participated in the ICKSH. The society is also rescheduling for speakers from other countries.

The hematology society said it has no issue for a penalty or venue rental in the delayed timeline.

An executive at a medical society, who wished to be unnamed, said it takes months to change the schedule of a prominent foreign speaker, and his society was suffering a significant loss due to the event delay.

“But as the new coronavirus caused a public health crisis around the world, we cannot ignore the risk of the virus infections among physicians who are in a high-risk group and other participants,” he said.

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