What Business Events Professionals Need to Know About the COVID-19 Coronavirus

We created this page to help you find reliable information about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and to share business events industry-related resources to ensure you are prepared.

To begin with …

Monitor local, national and international public health departments and agencies for advice about any protocols you should follow should one of your business events participants become sick with fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Review your crisis communications plan to ensure it’s up to date. See the guide we produced in 2018 as a reference.

Above all, be calm and communicate responsibly. “Containing the spread of unnecessary panic is as important as stopping the virus itself,” said Gloria Guevara, president and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

What You Need to Know

More than 80,000 people — primarily in China — have been diagnosed with COVID-19 coronavirus following an outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Outside of China, public health authorities have reported 2,459 confirmed cases across 34 countries. There is one confirmed case in Brazil, the first to be reported in Latin and South America. In China, more than 2,700 have died, and 34 deaths have been reported outside of China, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

China has announced declining numbers in new confirmed cases, but for the first time, the number of new reported cases was higher outside of the country than in China — in South Korea, the country with the highest number of confirmed cases outside of China, the number of infected people has grown to more than 1,200.

More than 80 countries have imposed travel restrictions; The Council of Foreign Relations, a think tank, has created a global tracker with a comprehensive list of travel restrictions, including flight and visa restrictions.

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The coronavirus’ effect on the business events industry is varied. Some international business events have been held —the Singapore Air Show — or are continuing — London Fashion Week. Other business events — Mobile World Congress — have been canceled or postponed.

Related news: Coronavirus’ Impact on Business Events (Convene)

Travel precautions and airport screenings are still in place. Check with your airline or airport for latest information.

There are travel restrictions, tightened visa requirements and/or self-quarantines in more than 50 countries including the United States, United Kingdom and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Related story: Places That Have Imposed China Travel Restrictions (Bloomberg)

Travel within China is widely restricted, with transport in and out of Wuhan suspended, including air, train and buses. China has suspended all tour groups and the sale of flight and hotel packages for citizens headed overseas.

We’ve updated some suggestions that risk management consultant Joan L. Eisenstodt offered during the 2016 Zika virus outbreak as they are still applicable today.

  • If you’re contracted with venues and vendors in countries where there has been a warning, look first to your crisis plan to see where this fits. And, talk with your attorney — it is uncertain whether warnings from the CDC fall under force majeure and/or impossibility clauses.
  • If you do not have a plan, consider the impact of the warnings on the meeting and to those attending.
  • Talk with your attorney and with your insurance carrier about the long-term impact of the decisions you make.

“The big issues are legal — canceling a meeting and contracts — versus the safety of people,” Eisenstodt said in 2016. “The real concern of attendees contracting the virus versus hurting the populations of those areas by moving a meeting based on reports.

“The questions, of course, revolve around how much hype there is around the virus versus the reality of the risk of someone in the group contracting the virus,” she added. “In risk management, we always teach that people come first and their safety comes first.”

In 2015, John S. Foster, an attorney whose firm specializes in the legal aspects of meetings and events, had suggestions that still apply today. Back then, he recommended analyzing your contracts in terms of termination and cancellation language. The typical force-majeure clause in convention-industry contracts limits termination of the contract without liability to situations where it is impossible for one or both parties to perform. See his other recommendations.

Consider preparing your force-majeure clause with examples that apply to situations where performance of the contract may be terminated without liability by either party, suggests John S. Foster, an attorney whose firm specializes in the legal aspects of meetings and events. This applies not only if performance is impossible, but also if performance has been made commercially impracticable or the purpose of a party is frustrated by supervening events after the contract has been signed and the value of the contract has been substantially diminished or destroyed.

Related news: 6 Tips for Covering Catastrophes in Contracts (Convene)

As a traveler, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

As a business events professional, establish or review plans to communicate with attendees traveling to your events about any concerns.