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Covid-19 bombshell: outbreak in NZ after AIME cancelled

January 28, 2021 Headline News No Comments

The likelihood of any early trans-Tasman “travel bubble” is receding, following three cases of Covid-19 among people who had recently been released from managed isolation in New Zealand – and the region’s largest and longest running business events exhibition, Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo (AIME) in Melbourne, has been cancelled this year because of the continuing pandemic. 

The Australian government on Monday suspended for three days quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders arriving in Australia in “an abundance of caution” after a woman tested positive in New Zealand with the fast-spreading South African strain of the disease.

The New Zealand woman contracted Covid-19 at a quarantine hotel, the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed her disappointment over Australia’s action in temporarily freezing quarantine-free travel – but then came a bombshell, when two more people in New Zealand tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation.

The new cases had also been staying at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. The NZ Ministry of Health was carrying out “urgent testing” last night to find whether they were recent or historic infections. The development may see Australia extend its ban on quarantine-free travel from New Zealand.

Ardern reaffirmed plans to create a two-way travel bubble with Australia (which would allow Australian and New Zealand travellers heading across the Tasman to skip the quarantine required of other travellers). However the likelihood of establishing it in the first quarter of this year is looking shaky.

“It does look increasingly difficult at a country-by-country level,” Ardern admitted.

“We haven’t ruled out the possibility of state-by-state.”

In Australia meanwhile, AIME 2021, due to take place on 15-17 March 2021 (in Melbourne as always), has been cancelled.

 AIME issued a statement:

“It is with great sadness we announce the cancellation of AIME 2021 due the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic.

“We know this news is disappointing for our global business events community, especially the many exhibitors, buyers, industry professionals due to attend the show.

“Several options were explored to get this global event happening in 2021, but unfortunately the difficult decision has been made to cancel the event.

“Like many other event organisers, we face the challenges brought about by international and domestic travel restrictions despite healthy interest for the event from exhibitors and buyers. As the past year has shown, it’s difficult to predict if border closures will be required to slow the spread of future outbreaks.

“We wholeheartedly supported the move to a hybrid format to ensure AIME continued to offer international and local buyers access to the best exhibitors from around the globe. Yet we believe a fully virtual event would remove the live, in-person element – which is the essence of AIME.

“Along with our partners and suppliers, we have poured our hearts into this year’s event. But we are resilient, we are adaptable and we will bounce back with AIME2022 to be bigger and better. The event will play a significant role in the business events industry’s recovery, and create and re-establish valuable connections to drive commerce for the wider region.

“As host of AIME for almost three decades in Melbourne, we’re proud of its status on the global business events calendar. We thank you for your support and look forward to meeting again at AIME, 21-23 March 2022.”

AIME event director, Silke Calder, said that not being able to run AIME 2021 “is devastating for the entire AIME team. They put 110% into this show and I couldn’t be prouder.

“We are all heartbroken and are counting down the days until we meet again in 2022!”

Speculation is rife about how many other industry events are likely to face cancellation, with the pandemic seeming set to continue into 2021.

It’s not just industry events, either. With a little under six months to go, questions are being raised about whether it is still feasible for the Tokyo Olympics to proceed.

The Tokyo Organising Committee insists the games will still start as scheduled on 23 July 2021. The games were postponed last year but they can’t be postponed again. Any further delay to the summer Olympics would risk interfering with the Winter Olympics of 2022, which is due to take place in Beijing in February.

Written by Peter Needham

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