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WEF in Singapore

Singapore 'Davos' canceled amid Asia's COVID resurgence

World Economic Forum cites uncertainty on variants, differing vaccination speeds

The 50th World Economic Forum annual meeting was held in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2020.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- The World Economic Forum has canceled the special annual meeting set for Singapore in August, scrapping the planned in-person gathering due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, the group said Monday.

The event, which was scheduled for Aug. 17 to 20 in the city-state, would have been the first WEF annual meeting in Asia.

"Regretfully, the tragic circumstances unfolding across geographies, an uncertain travel outlook, differing speeds of vaccination rollout and the uncertainty around new variants combine to make it impossible to realize a global meeting with business, government and civil society leaders from all over the world at the scale which was planned," WEF said in a statement.

The cancellation comes as many Asian economies face a resurgence of the virus, including the fast-spreading Indian variants. The local coronavirus situation in Singapore also has worsened in recent days, leading to a monthlong period of heightened restrictions that began Sunday.

"It was a difficult decision," Klaus Schwab, the forum's founder and executive chairman, said in a statement. "But ultimately the health and safety of everyone concerned is our highest priority."

The next annual meeting will take place in the first half of 2022, the group said, without naming the venue.

Normally, the annual WEF meeting is held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. About 3,000 political, business and civil society leaders attended last year. But the pandemic prompted a decision to move the 2021 event to the Asian transport hub of Singapore, deemed one of the places best equipped to mitigate the health risks.

The forum originally planned the Singapore meeting for May, but postponed it to August due to the pandemic.

The shift to Singapore, the first "Davos in Asia," was to highlight the continent's growing economic influence. Leaders were to discuss the world's economic recovery from the pandemic. The in-person meeting was to symbolize Singapore's emergence from the outbreak and revival of its hub economy this year.

"The Singapore government fully appreciates the challenges caused by the ongoing global pandemic, particularly for a large meeting with a broad span of international participants," the Ministry of Trade and Industry said Monday. "We will continue to work actively with the World Economic Forum and other key international organizations to promote collaborations between stakeholders on issues of global concern."

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