Most countries around the world have enforced a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. This generally means everyone, aside from essential workers, must stay at home and can only venture out for groceries and medical purposes. Naturally, public gatherings are prohibited, although in some countries small gatherings are still possible. Now, as lockdowns are cautiously being lifted around the world (albeit with the risk of reverting should the need arise), the global Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is left to speculate as to when it can resume hosting events. In South Africa, our lockdown is currently due to end on 30 April. A number of exhibitions have been postponed until August at the earliest, according to the schedule on the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) website. However there is a lot of uncertainty, as we all realise that our circumstances can change quickly. To help gauge the international events industry’s expectations, below is a list of different countries (in alphabetical order) with their expected timelines to be able to host public events.
AustraliaLockdown: 23 March – September 2020 to March 2021 The initial lockdown rules prohibited non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside. This was later amended to no public gatherings of more than two people – with the exceptions of people of the same household, funerals (a maximum of 10 people), and weddings (a maximum of 5 people). An initial six months recovery timeframe was proposed, which would end in September. However Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned it could be as long as a year.
DubaiLockdown: 04 April – 18 April Dubai started implementing precautionary measures against the COVID-19 pandemic early on, closing all schools and recommending residents self-isolate from 08 March. All bars, restaurants, pubs, and hotels were closed and major events suspended from 16 March. Permits for all business events have been put on hold since then. Stricter rules have since come into force with the lockdown, with residents requiring permits to leave their homes. Expo 2020 Dubai was scheduled to take place from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021, but is now looking at pushing this out by a year, to open in October 2021 instead.
FranceLockdown: 17 March – 11 May Restrictions are scheduled to start lifting from 11 May. However restaurants will remain closed and festivals will be prohibited until at least mid-July. Meanwhile the Tour de France, which was due to run from 27 June to 19 July, has been postponed to 29 August.
GermanyLockdown: 22 March – 20 April to 04 May Some lockdown restrictions will be lifted from 20 April, and students will start returning to school from 04 May. Strict rules about social distancing and sanitizing will remain, and large gatherings will be prohibited until the end of August.
ItalyLockdown: 21 February (provincial) and 09 March (national) – 03 May Italy has lifted a few lockdown measures since 14 April, and is aiming to lift the remaining measures by 03 May. However, virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco of Milan University cautioned, “We have to resume via a gradual exit strategy and I believe we’ll still have to keep some restrictions in place.” The ban on large public gatherings is one restriction which is likely to remain in place “for some time”.
JapanLockdown: 08 April – 06 May Japan’s approach was initially described as a ‘soft lockdown’, with people being encouraged to avoid large public gatherings. However a national state of emergency was declared on 16 April, when the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extended its regional state of emergency to the entire nation through May 6, and which limits people’s movement to essential activities only. The 2020 Olympics, originally set to take place in Tokyo from 24 July and 9 August 2020, has been postponed to 23 July to 08 August 2021, due to concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak will still pose a threat.