The organizers of IUCr2020 continued in their preparations for the Congress despite the uncertain situation until very recently. The development of the coronavirus pandemic is rapid and spread all over the world.
The Czech government introduced very strong restrictions at quite an early stage and our border is completely closed. It is similar in many other countries. Predictions and models show quite a lengthy development that will probably last for months. Even in the case that we are allowed technically to organize the Congress this August, many people will not be willing to travel, people from some countries may not be allowed to leave their countries or enter the Czech Republic, the sessions may not be filled and overall the Congress could easily end up in disaster. A few days ago, we were contacted by the Prague Congress Centre. Most of the other summer events have been now postponed to next summer and they urgently needed our decision, if we wanted to do the same. The only possible time in 2021 is 13–22 August, which we fortunately booked a couple of weeks ago to have in reserve. [The Congress will open on 14 August with workshops and exhibition installation taking place on 13 August.]
Then we started discussions with the IUCr Executive Committee (EC), which responded quickly with a clear recommendation to postpone all planned crystallographic meetings by one year, if possible. This was a critical issue for ECM33, which was scheduled to take place in Versailles, France, in August 2021. Fortunately, our French colleagues replied very quickly that this would not be a problem in principle, and the ECA is also prepared to move ECM33 to August 2022. We are very grateful for this. Of course, there are also other meetings that may be forced to be postponed. Finally, the IUCr EC approved the postponement of the Congress at its virtual meeting on 25 March 2020.
It was not an easy decision. We are very sorry for all the participants who have registered and were looking forward to the Congress and to visiting Prague. Nobody knows what will happen next year but by postponing the Congress we have at least a good chance that the situation will be better, and that we will have a nice meeting as planned. Simply, we arrived at the decision that the organization of IUCr2020 this August is already too risky, and it loses its main sense. We also wanted to avoid the situation where we would be forced to cancel the meeting a few days before the start, as has already happened to some large congresses. The situation is extraordinary and has never happened before.
We are awfully sorry for those who have already made reservations (travel, accommodation) and hope that they will be able to get their money back. The registered people and companies will receive separate emails.
We are going to keep the original scheme with respect to weekdays, and to keep current reservations for the exhibition unless they are cancelled.
Radek Kužel, the IUCr2020 chair
March 26, 2020
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