21 Dec 2021

Omicron uncertainty prompts Davos business leaders' summit delay

5:52 am on 21 December 2021

The elite annual gathering of business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos has been postponed due to the spread of Omicron.

In this file photo taken on January 20, 2020, a policeman  stands on the rooftop of a hotel during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.

(File photo) A policeman stands on the rooftop of a hotel during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, January 2020. Photo: AFP

The meeting was due to take place in Switzerland from 17-21 January, but is now planned for "early summer".

WEF said the current pandemic conditions "make it extremely difficult to deliver a global in-person meeting".

Instead, it said participants would take part in a series of "state of the world" sessions online.

"The deferral of the annual meeting will not prevent progress through continued digital convening of leaders from business, government and civil society," said Prof Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

"Public-private cooperation has moved forward throughout the pandemic and that will continue apace."

Last year, the annual WEF meeting was shifted from Davos because of Covid-19 and had been due to be held in Singapore during August before the event was cancelled.

Switzerland has become the latest country to introduce new Covid restrictions, including a mandatory order to work from home, as the Omicron variant of Covid spreads through Europe.

"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.

Launched in 1971, WEF aims to "improve the state of the world" by bringing leaders from business, politics, charity and academia together.

The conference - which is criticised by some as being elitist - had until last year been held annually in the Alpine ski resort of Davos.