Haematology conferences hang in the balance as COVID-19 pandemic widens


It’s business as usual for most haematology medical meetings while other specialities are cancelling or postponing their major conferences due to the risk of COVID-19.

Most of the major haematology professional society conferences are many months away and so face no imminent threat from the rapidly evolving global coronavirus pandemic.

Blood 2020, the combined Annual Scientific Meeting of the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand (HSANZ), Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion and Thrombosis and Haemostasis Society of Australia and New Zealand, is due to run from 15 – 18 November in Adelaide.

And the American Society of Hematology (ASH 2020) annual meeting is due to take place on December 5-8, 2020 in San Diego.

In Europe, the European Hematology Association (EHA) annual conference is still scheduled to take place on June 11-14 in Frankfurt, Germany.

The organisers of the congress that attracts more than 12,000 delegates a year, from Europe and beyond, say that EHA is closely monitoring the developments concerning the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) but “currently all EHA activities continue as planned.”

And in Spain, the organisers of the International Society for Blood Transfusion (ISBT) say there are no plans as yet to cancel the annual meeting due to take place in Barcelona starting on 6 June.

“At this moment the WHO and the Spanish Health Authorities do not consider the situation regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a public health emergency in Spain. There is no negative travel advice to visit Spain and therefore the ISBT International Congress in Barcelona will proceed as scheduled,” they said.

In the UK the 60th Annual Scientific Meeting of the British Society for Haematology is still scheduled to take place  from 27 – 29 April 2020 in Birmingham. Organisers say they are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation but there is currently no reason to defer or postpone travel to the conference.

Closer to home, the Royal Australasian College of Pathologists (RCPA)’s Pathology Update is proceeding as scheduled next week, in Sydney from Friday 20 – Sunday 22 March 2020, although some key international speakers will not be able to attend.

“This decision is consistent with the current Government advice to continue with public events via the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC advice),” the RCPA says in a conference COVID-10 update.

“Should this advice change we will of course do what is appropriate.”

The RCPA says some key speakers have been unable to travel to Australia due to employer imposed international travel restrictions, and alternative audio-visual solutions will be used to enable these speakers to deliver their talks remotely. The College is also arranging live streaming of the Pathology Update sessions  in real time.

Meanwhile, other major conferences such as the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) 2020 meeting scheduled for April 24-29 in San Diego, that attracts more than 20,000 attendees, including haematological cancer researchers, have been cancelled.

“AACR Board of Directors has made the difficult decision, after careful consideration and comprehensive evaluation of currently available information related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, to terminate the AACR Annual Meeting .. a rescheduled meeting is being planned for later this year,” a statement said.

Other major conferences that have been cancelled include the American College of Cardiology meeting (ACC 2020) that was scheduled to take place from March 28-30 in Chicago.

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