Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) Statement on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
In response to the rapidly changing circumstances associated with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), the SIRS Officers, Executive Board and 2020 Program Chairs have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Congress of the Schizophrenia International Meeting scheduled to take place 4-8 April 2020 in Florence, Italy. In doing so, SIRS leadership carefully weighed the risks to attendees and their families, colleagues, and members of the global community. SIRS has concerns about the risk to healthcare systems given the medical profile of SIRS attendees and the consequences of potentially displacing healthcare workers from their countries during a critical time, as well as potentially stressing the local Italian health system. Considering all the information available at the moment, SIRS leadership believes that cancelling the conference is the responsible action to take. The health and safety of members, attendees, exhibitors, and the community is its top priority.
SIRS attendees come from all over the world. Over the last two weeks, SIRS leadership learned that many institutions have placed both international and domestic travel bans on their employees for non-essential travel, inclusive of conferences. Italy has recently issued a declaration that all congresses, meetings and social events that involve health professionals are suspended until 3 April, and we need to anticipate that this declaration may be extended beyond 3 April. Similarly, major air carriers are suspending flights to the region (inbound) and several countries where our attendees are located have suspended travel out of their country (outbound). The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued a travel alert to avoid all non-essential travel to the region where the congress was to be held. On 9 March, authorities in Italy placed the entire country under quarantine. All of these actions are a direct result of the epidemic of COVID-19. It is clear that it would be an unacceptable risk to bring over 1500 members of the health care community together in Florence, Italy.
Please know this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make for SIRS leadership. SIRS is a not-for-profit organization that depends heavily on its annual congress to sustain its financial well-being. Cancelling the congress has consequences not just for attendees, presenters, and exhibitors but for the very existence of SIRS as a scientific society. Still, SIRS remains committed to its mission to bring together researchers from across the world who work on schizophrenia and other related disorders.