Ahead of several upcoming international trade fairs, concerns have been expressed over the impact of the coronavirus, now officially identified as the COVID-19 virus, on the Chinese attendance and safety at these fairs. Suppliers such as Flint and Sun Chemical, who depend on large quantities of supplies from China, have put contingency plans in place for their customers and manufacturing sites. Several manufacturers have already issued statements on their websites to this end.
Fespa Global Print Expo is to run in Madrid from 24-27 March 2020. Fespa CEO Neil Felton issued a statement confirming that the show will take place as scheduled – “Fespa is committed to safeguarding the health of all exhibitors, visitors, and contractors at Fespa events to the best of its capabilities. Fespa is currently reviewing a number of proactive options with a view to minimizing the risks to all participants at the event. Further statements will be issued in due course.”
Felton issued the statement after the Mobile World Congress Expo due to take place in Barcelona by the end of February was canceled after most of the major exhibitors pulled out because of virus infection concerns.
The London Book Fair and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, both to take place in the next few weeks, are also experiencing cancellations from China. Both trade fairs expect considerably lower attendance from Asian participants. Interpack in May and drupa in June also expect the attendance numbers from China, in particular, and Asia, in general, to fall. A first statement by Messe Düsseldorf has been published on both the Interpack and drupa websites:
“We take the concerns of our customers, guests and partners regarding the coronavirus very seriously. Your safety is always our top priority. As exhibitors and visitors, you can expect a high level of hygiene, safety and good medical care at the Düsseldorf trade fair grounds as usual. Messe Düsseldorf is closely monitoring current developments and is in direct contact with the health authorities. All trade fair preparations are proceeding as planned.
“According to the World Health Organization, the Robert Koch Institute and the German authorities, the risk of infection with this new pathogen in Germany is currently very low. The medical facilities at the Düsseldorf exhibition center have the latest information at all times and are well prepared. There are clearly defined procedures for looking after anyone on the premises of the trade fair grounds who suddenly develops symptoms of a serious disease. These procedures were developed and tested at the time of SARS, the Influenza A (H1N1) virus and also EHEC.
“Messe Düsseldorf provides its guests, partners and members of staff with hand disinfection dispensers in the toilets, washrooms, in the area in front of the trade fair doctor’s office/out-patient facility as well as at the entrance concourses. Messe Düsseldorf has also shortened the cleaning intervals for toilets and washrooms. Contact surfaces (including door handles, handrails, and switches) on doors, lifts, staircases and moving walkways are now cleaned daily. Furthermore, Messe Düsseldorf informs all guests, partners, and employees about hygiene and prevention tips made by the Federal Office for Health Education on posters.
“Close contact between all the relevant stakeholders ensures that new findings are shared, that information is provided and that available procedures for the trade fair grounds are modified to suit a given situation.”
Fespa in March in Madrid was a possibility for us as we were looking forward to learning more about digital textiles, but now it seems that we need to rely more on our European colleagues. In any case, some of the best trade journalists in our industry feel that the carbon footprint of our jaunts and junkets is not justifiable. At the same time, exhibitors prefer to spend money on exhibitions and open house events rather than advertising to support trade magazines and platforms such as ours.
However, we are still planning to be at Metpack and Interpack in full force and drupa as well. Of course the key is the safety of our team and the industry. Let’s see if the coronavirus can be contained in the next 60 days by which time, many of us will have to take a call.