Davos economic forum delayed until summer amid Omicron fears

Annual meeting of world leaders, billionaires and business chiefs had been scheduled for January

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Last modified on Mon 20 Dec 2021 10.49 EST

The annual Davos gathering of world leaders, billionaires and business chiefs planned for next month has been delayed until the summer amid mounting concerns over the coronavirus Omicron variant.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) – which has been putting on the gathering of the global elite at a Swiss ski resort each January for half a century – said it would hold a series of online sessions next month to bring together global leaders to discuss the world’s biggest challenges instead. A full annual meeting is planned for early summer.

Regarded as a key event on the calendar for international relations, business and the world economy, the event was scheduled for 17-27 January with a theme of “working together, restoring trust”.

However, the organisers said current pandemic conditions made it extremely difficult to put on a face-to-face meeting. It comes amid a fresh wave of coronavirus infections fuelled by the Omicron variant, leading countries around the world to impose tougher travel controls and a return to tighter government restrictions.

“Despite the meeting’s stringent health protocols, the transmissibility of Omicron and its impact on travel and mobility have made deferral necessary,” the WEF said.

The decision to push back the event is the second year running that Covid-19 has forced changes. The gathering on a remote mountain top in Switzerland would usually welcome about 3,000 people, including the world’s super-rich flying in by private jet to discuss challenges such as climate emergency, inequality, business, and technology.

The last time world leaders gathered at Davos was for its 50th anniversary meeting in January 2020 – before Covid-19 spread across the world – with campaigners including Greta Thunberg and 53 heads of state, including the then US president, Donald Trump.

Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, said: “Public-private cooperation has moved forward throughout the pandemic and that will continue apace. We look forward to bringing global leaders together in person soon.”

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