SINGAPORE -- The World Economic Forum announced Wednesday that its special annual meeting scheduled for May in Singapore has been deferred by three months, as the prolonged global COVID-19 situation exposes risks for international in-person gatherings.
The event will now be held in the city-state from Aug. 17 to 20, the organization said, instead of May 25 to 28.
"The change to the meeting's timing reflects the international challenges in containing the pandemic," the WEF said in a statement.
While the local COVID-19 situation in the city-state is largely under control -- Singapore reported only 18 new cases Wednesday -- the WEF noted that "current global travel restrictions have made planning difficult for an in-person meeting in the first half of the year." It added that differing quarantine and air transport regulations have increased the lead time necessary to ensure that participants globally can make arrangements to join.
The decision comes days after the World Economic Forum held week-long Davos Agenda virtual meetings in late January, where political and national leaders from across the world made an appearance, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"A global leadership summit needs the participation of all global stakeholders," Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF, said in the statement.
Normally, the annual WEF meeting is held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, with about 3,000 political, business and civil society leaders attending last year. But the coronavirus pandemic prompted a decision to move the 2021 event to Singapore, Asia's transport hub that is deemed one of the places best-equipped to mitigate the health risks.
The shift to Singapore, the first "Davos in Asia," would highlight Asia's growing economic clout and leaders would discuss the world's economic recovery from the pandemic. Yet, some had already argued that Singapore hosting Davos amid the protracted pandemic is too risky.
For Singapore, the in-person WEF meeting will be a symbolic event as it emerges from the outbreak and revives its hub economy this year.
On Wednesday, Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a separate statement: "The Singapore government understands the challenges faced by the World Economic Forum and has agreed to the reschedule. We will continue to partner the World Economic Forum closely to host a safe and successful special annual meeting in Singapore."