We hope this finds you well and without flu-like symptoms, as those can have somewhat tricky consequences these days.
We are coming off of a tremendously fruitful weekend spent at the venue of the 34th EFPSA Congress, where we met with hotel management among others. We are delighted with the results and growing increasingly impatient for this thing to go down. As you might expect, in these turbulent times, one of the major topics of the meeting was the situation around the COVID-19 – the infamous and ever-present coronavirus.
Many of you have asked and expressed your concerns about the situation. We did not want to release an official statement until having talked with the hotel.
For those of you, who do not want to waste time with reading the whole post, I will simplify the outcomes that our efforts yielded: WE ARE GOING AHEAD WITH THE CONGRESS UNLESS WE GET CANCELLED BY OFFICIAL BODIES.
Possibly even simpler: just get here, we’ll sort the rest.
On a more serious note, however, below are the details on our reasonings, safety plans and potential future developments of the situation.
We discussed a few contingency plans with the venue. We agreed we very much would like to stick to the initial plan, which is that everything will go ahead as normal.
Although neither the hotel or us plan on cancelling, we both agreed to adhere to EU and Irish Government recommendations. The Irish government met on Friday for an emergency meeting regarding large public gatherings resulting in a public statement recommending NOT TO CANCEL any events. Their focus fell on events with 1000+ participants, which would not concern us anyway.
Admittedly, events took a turn today as the Irish government cancelled all St Patrick’s parades across the country, most notably the parade in Dublin gathering over 500,000 tourists for the day of the 17.3. The Taoiseach (read this as “tea-shock”, seriously, it means ‘prime minister’ – there you go, free Irish lesson) together with the chief medical officer at the Department of Health stated the country will remain in a containment phase for now, with potential plans to moving into a delay and mitigation phase. Translated into non-medical, non-political language – Ireland is kinda alright at the moment (cases are isolated, sporadic), they expect it to get worse, but it should be fine still. They did not rule out adopting similar temporary policies as Italy, France, & Germany (banning public gatherings above 1,000 people), which would not concern the Congress due to not being a public event and despite being the biggest EFPSA event as of yet (shameless plug) not reaching the number of 1000 people. Keep in mind that Congress is generally a self-contained event anyway, with the vast majority of the timetable taking place in the hotel away from the public.
With this being said, just to confirm that we are not basing our stance on just random information from websites and newspapers, we are monitoring all updates from official bodies and we have been liaising with Fáilte Ireland (the Irish Tourism board), who are also supportive of the event going ahead as planned. Furthermore, the hotel have put measures in place to address the situation – heightened sanitary precautions, emergency plans in case of quarantine, a quarantine plan should an outbreak happen during the event (bring some extra books, we might be staying here for a while – we can all conduct an experimental case study, 450+ authors, it could be interesting!) etc.
All things considered, we are fairly confident the event will run unless there is a complete Europe wide shutdown. From our perspective, we would like to run the event for the sake of you, the participants. We are well aware of the amount of time and resources you have already invested to come to Ireland for the Congress. We expect things to get worse for the next two weeks in order to turn a corner and clear out the closer we are to the Congress.
Finally, if the government decide to prevent travel (or put other policies in place preventing the event from happening), we will readdress this issue promptly and keep you posted.
For a live update on the effect of the coronavirus, please follow this page on our website.
And here is a pretty pic of us as a reminder of how cool we are and how much you want to attend this glorious event! (Preemptive question, “are they matching jerseys?!”; Answer, “Oh yeah…. they are”).