Menu

Coronavirus: why banning events is over the top

Over the weekend European countries moved into overdrive in formulating their responses to the coronavirus outbreak, many with huge ramifications for our industry.

France has banned all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people, while Switzerland has banned large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people until at least 15 March.

In Germany, the world’s leading travel trade show, ITB Berlin, was scrapped after host venue Messe Berlin said that it was not able to satisfy the health authority’s requirements. The authority was insisting that each delegate would need to prove that they were not from a designated risk area or had not been in contact with a person or persons from a risk area.

Major corporations including Twitter, Amazon, Google, Goldman Sachs and Nike are also putting in place extra measures to try to limit the spread of the infection, such as travel bans and remote working policies.

The spread across the globe of coronavirus has been fast and furious – but does that mean our reaction to the outbreak should be too?

Yes, the numbers are worrying – the global death toll is more than 3,000, mostly in China, with more than 88,000 people in more than 60 countries infected – but it’s important to get it into perspective.

For example, flu has killed an average of 17,000 people in England per year over the last five years. And yet I bet you’ve never thought of cancelling travel or events over the flu.

The fact is that coronavirus is a relatively mild illness and the vast majority of people make a full recovery. Children and healthy adults appear to be able to cope with the virus, with only older people and those with severe underlying illnesses likely to be at risk of serious developments.

We can all do our bit to help prevent the infection spreading by washing our hands regularly – and we should be doing this. And yes, if you’re not in the best of health, it’s probably best to show a bit more caution.

But when it comes down to it, what difference will banning events make? Airports are still open, the trains are still running, motorway service stations are unaffected… places where hundreds of people mingle and mix every single day. The event bans in Switzerland and France seem completely over the top.

Here in the UK, Boris Johnson has said closing schools and banning mass gatherings will only happen based on scientific advice, adding that people should continue washing their hands regularly and go about their business as usual.

Let’s just hope that the scientific advice doesn’t result in decisions that affect our industry adversely for no good reason.