Corona virus reaction panic vs. prudence
There is not a single day that goes by without hearing or reading something about the novel corona virus (COVID-19).
Although the World Health Organization is trying to spread scientific knowledge, the information we get though the media or by word of mouth is somehow fuzzy and anything but scientific.
Every day we hear about people that have been diagnosed with the virus, affected by the outbreak and the death numbers of people especially in China.
We speak about and try to find measures of protecting our health and preventing the spread of the outbreak.
So, let’s have a look at the facts first:
It is known, that the virus can spread from person to person through droplets or something that has been contaminated with the virus. The other source of infection is reported to be from animals.
The ones most at risk to be infected are the ones that take care of an infected person. That would be family members or health care staff.
The symptoms are fever, cough or shortness of breath. Those tend to be the symptoms that we know from any cold or flu.
So far there is no vaccine to treat the virus, so treatment is done by quarantine and the care that would be chosen for any cold or flu.
Same as any cold, the spread of the virus is prevented by covering your mouth and nose, when sneezing or coughing. Not with the hand, but with a tissue or your arm. The hand should not be used, as you would spread the virus faster by touching others or things around you.
The best way of preventing the spread is washing your hands often along the day with water and soap. This narrows down the chances of spreading the virus significantly.
If we consider these facts, it is a natural reaction, when we try to avoid close contact with people that don't feel well, cough or sneeze. If we don't feel well ourselves, we should stay away from other people.
But how do we react for conducting or attending meetings and events?
The news of cancellations of meetings, conferences and events in all different parts of the world are coming in every day. Anyone within the m&e industry has either heard of cancellations or suffered one themselves. A lot of us are struggling with the decision of attending a meeting, event or conference.
I am attending a conference in Melbourne, Australia right now as I write this article.
I had the same thoughts. Should I really attend? Should I expose myself to this threat?
To attend a meeting or event we usually have to travel through large airports with hundreds and thousands of people to arrive at a destination and spend time with so many people we don’t know. Those seem to be the people that pose the biggest threat to us. Although the facts stated above tell us, that there is way more threat posed from the people we know and are close to us.
The ones in our industry that produce, plan and execute meetings and events are confronted with the question, if we can risk gathering people from all over the world in one place.
What if something happens?
Any threat to our participants has to be avoided by all means. And there are many threats. Just think back to the discussions and reactions we had on the Las Vegas shooting at the Harvest Music Festival in 2017 within our industry. We learned a lot from this horrible incident over the years, but the first reaction was somehow pure panic.
This is what is happening now with the corona virus threat.
Meetings, events and conferences around the world are being cancelled to avoid any threat to the participants or to make sure that the name “corona” is not associated with our company or conference.
Cancellations are severe, money is being burned right in front of our eyes.
This is threatening the existence of hotels, venues, event planning companies and suppliers of any kind and has already a big impact on the economy. Just look at the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
We urgently have to find a way to deal with the virus and any other virus, that is yet to come, before we produce a threat to our industry.
The first thing would be sharing ideas and thoughts on prevention without the panic element.
Giving advice and offering the tools of staying clean. Offering disinfection liquids and towels.
Staying at home and not go to a meeting or to work, when we do not feel well, without the thought of “can I really do that??”. Not touching our faces with the hands that have been shaking others and touching different surfaces.
Being alert is very important, but panicking is definitely the wrong reaction.
Our industry should do, what we do best:
Gather smart people and share ideas on how to deal with this threat and how to prevent others.
Try it! You will see how it works!