O-Show 2020 has been cancelled due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as the organisers of other ophthalmic conferences and events lay out their plans for the coming months.
Non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people have been banned across Australia for the foreseeable future as the government attempts to stem the spread of the virus. Fourteen-day self-isolation rules have also been imposed for overseas arrivals to the country.
The measures have led to the cancellation or postponement of ophthalmic events, including this weekend’s WAVE 2020 conference in Western Australia and the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists (ACBO) annual conference in June. All non-essential RANZCO meetings have been cancelled until 14 April. The Australian Vision Convention (AVC) on the Gold Coast will proceed with its conference via a virtual, livestream format on 4-5 April.
Today, the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA) confirmed via a statement it has cancelled the O-Show trade fair, which was scheduled to take place at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney between 16-17 May.
“With the uncertainty around the developing COVID-19 situation, we have made the difficult decision to cancel O-Show 2020,” ODMA CEO Ms Finola Carey said.
“We are saddened that the event will not proceed due to the COVID-19 crisis, and apologise for any inconvenience and difficulty this may cause. However, the health and wellbeing of our members, exhibitors, customers and the broader community has to be our major concern and is the reason for cancelling the event.”
Carey said ODMA reviewed alternatives, including rescheduling. However, with no end date to the government’s ban on gatherings of 500-plus people, it was deemed too difficult to make a further commitment that could have far reaching financial implications.
“Naturally the cancellation has come at a cost with venue, contractors and organisers already partially paid and other amounts due. We will continue to work with our suppliers to minimise the exposure. We will be refunding exhibitors from today,” Carey said.
Optometry Australia’s WA (OWA) branch cancelled the WAVE 2020 conference, scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday.
“Whilst technically WAVE could proceed, and a multitude of preventative measures had been proactively put in place, OWA believes that the greater good and protection of individuals along with the profession will be best served by cancelling WAVE,” a statement said.
Speakers, delegates and trade supporters will be refunded costs associated with registering for WAVE. This could “take a short period of time to administer”.
Meanwhile, Optometry Australia’s Queensland and Northern Territory branch confirmed the AVC conference would proceed on 4-5 April, however it would be done via a virtual livestream.
“While we would like to continue to offer an in-person delegate experience, this is simply not possible in the current environment and recent advice,” an email to delegates said.
“We understand that you rely on conferences to gain your required CPD point allocation, and as a result, want to continue to offer the content in an alternate method.”
Delegates were offered the opportunity to change their registration to receive the livestream or cancel their registration.
Meanwhile, the ACBO has decided to postpone its annual national conference which was planned for 6-7 June on the Gold Coast
“We believe the prudent course is to postpone the ACBO 2020 event until a clear picture develops of the course coronavirus will take and its impact on our ability to hold a safe and enjoyable meeting, ideally late in 2020,” a statement on its website said.
Finally, all non-essential RANZCO meetings have been cancelled until 14 April. This affects both the NSW and Victoria branch meetings. Additionally, the WA branch meeting in Bali planned for 29-30 May has been postponed until November.
The Australian and New Zealand Society of Retinal Specialists (ANZSRS) mid-year meeting in Melbourne, between 23-24 May, has been cancelled. The New Zealand branch meeting in Christchurch on 8-9 May has been cancelled.
“This will be reviewed on a rolling basis as the situation develops. Fellows are urged to consider whether they should attend any large public gatherings, including sporting events. The requirement to isolate for 14 days following potential contact with a positive carrier could have a huge effect on public and private eye care,” a RANZCO statement said.
Other ophthalmic events across the world cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- The Daegu International Optical Show in South Korea, which was to take place between 8-10 April, has been postponed until further notice.
- The SEMO conference in Auckland has been cancelled. Hosted by the School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Auckland, it was planned for 16–18 April.
- The annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Baltimore, US, has been cancelled. It was scheduled to run 1-7 May.
- International eyewear trade show Mido in Milan has been postponed to 5-7 July.
- The Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology has postponed its 2020 Congress in Xiamen, China, and all the 60th anniversary celebrations until 5-9 August.
- Vision East Expo in New York, schedule for March 26-29, has been cancelled but will be consolidated with Vision Expo West in Las Vegas, between 23-26 September.