Dear WAIMH members and colleagues,
First of all I wish to thank you for your patience and understanding during our struggle to reach a decision on postponing the WAIMH Brisbane Congress to June 2021. You may have wondered what took us so long, and I thought I would try to open the issue for you.
The year 2020 has not been easy for any of us with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, through the numerous discussions with our Australian colleagues and WAIMH Board and Executive Committee members it became quite clear that the situation can look very different in different countries and regions. Currently, in Australia and New Zealand the governments are easing restrictions and looking towards a future with a more open society that might allow social gatherings quite soon. In contrast to that, medical experts and epidemiologists are warning about the possibility of a second or even a third wave of COVID-19. Without a crystal ball we cannot have any certainty about how things will be in June 2021, but through our discussions we have tried to figure out what the possibilities might be and to prepare for them. Postponing the Congress for a year gives us some time to see which of the possibilities becomes the most likely. The best possible scenario naturally is that either there is a vaccine or the virus has been eradicated and we can safely have a Congress with participants from all over the world. But this may not be the case. It is also possible that in June 2021 Australia and regions close to it will be allowing social gatherings, and participants from those regions will be able to attend the Congress in person, while it will be offered as an online event for participants from other continents and regions. It is also possible that in June 2021 we will still have a pandemic situation and we will have to organize a full eCongress online, as many associations are already planning to do. What I trust I can say with certainty is that we WILL have the 17th World Congress of the WAIMH in Brisbane one way or another, and we are looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible – live or online.
My grandmother used to say often that there is nothing so bad that it won’t bring something good with it – the Finnish version of “Every cloud has a silver lining”. One of the good things this year is that it has taught us is to treasure our relationships. And while we have been so desperate to reach out to each other, we have also learned to skype, zoom, meet etc, so we are also more prepared already to find ways of being together. Let us wash our hands, keep each other safe and live in hope of getting together in Brisbane.
Professor Kaija Puura, Executive Director, WAIMH