In an attempt to slow the spread of the deadly #Coronavirus most companies in China have advised staff to work from home, the Chinese new year holiday has been extended by three extra days (to this Sunday), in Guangdong province, cities have made face masks mandatory in public, in Shanghai, the government has stopped businesses from returning to work until Monday February 10, 2020, in the city of Suzhou businesses have been told to remain closed until at least February 8, 2020, both Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai are closed and it has now been reported that #Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in all Chinese regions (and yes, this includes Shenzhen where most of our industry’s LED manufacturing takes place).
There have been 425+ deaths, 19,681 confirmed cases and 21,558 suspected cases so far.
British Airways, American Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa and a couple of the smaller Asian carriers have announced that they are stopping all flights to and from China. Italy has cancelled all flights to / from China and earlier today the US warned its citizens not to travel to China after WHO declared this as a global emergency.
For our industry it is of concern that #ISE2020, which is due to start shortly, saw 2,300 Chinese nationals attend last year. Whilst many of those exhibitors will now no longer be able to travel to Amsterdam (getting back to work in time, getting out of their own city and then actually finding an airline to fly to Amsterdam on) many will still manage to do so.
It took a week before the show’s organisers issued a formal statement  on #Coronavirus and the general consensus was that it did not address the industry’s real concern – which is “will I be safe if I visit #ISE2020 ?”. Instead, the wording hid behind general advice from the World Health Organisation and the wishy-washy there will be ‘hand sanitisers’ at the show.
If your country has closed its borders with China, stopped all air traffic with China, or like the US State Department, issued a “do not travel warning” to China does it really make sense to meet with Chinese nationals in Amsterdam? I am turning that around because the real point is does it make sense to allow Chinese nationals who can get to Amsterdam to actually come? This is a big show, 80,000 people last year. When will the organisers realise there is a danger of death and a real danger of passing on the virus when folks return home.
If you were organising a dinner party you would not invite people who were ill, nor would you expect people who thought they might be ill to attend. If you didn’t know all the people at the dinner party particularly well, you might issue guidance along the lines of “if you think you are ill or may have come into contact with someone who could have been ill please do not come”. If someone had paid you to come and you didn’t want them there, contractually you could return their money and tell them not to come!
For ISE, it is not rude to disinvite exhibitors. I suspect this has not been done, not out of politeness but because by uninviting exhibitors it will cost the organisers money and they are seriously worried about how that would look going forward – especially as they have an awful lot of exhibition space to sell in Barcelona next year for #ISE2021. Remember that ISE’s move from Amsterdam to Barcelona was done to accommodate more exhibition space (no surprises here that it was the expected increase in Chinese LED companies wishing to exhibit) not more attendees.
It is in times of crisis like this however, where true leadership comes in and where any sane person would put societal good ahead of profit. Frankly, the show organisers have not assuaged any health concern that International visitors may have in visiting their show. Only by showing clear leadership and formally asking those flying in from China to stay away will they do that.
The death toll and the drastic measures that the Chinese government are putting in place should indicate to all just how serious this is.
If a ‘Chinese ban’ sounds rather draconian just think what would happen if only a few of the 77,700 #ISE2020 attendees returning home from Amsterdam were infected at the show. The health of all those who attend, their loved ones and anyone else they meet on their journey home (particularly those that might have a weakened immune system) should be of real concern. A person can carry the #coronavirus for up to 14 days without symptoms and in that time (still) be contagious.
Asking the Chinese not to make the trip to Amsterdam this year is a tough call. It’s problematic because undoubtedly it will cost the show money. There is a reason why 50 million Chinese nationals are under quarantine and that is a danger of death.