Dear Friends/Colleagues of the ICHG2021 Congress,
We are writing to you in our capacity as co-chairs of the ICHG2021 LOC.
We trust you, your families and colleagues are well at this peculiar time (brought on by the Covid19 pandemic).
I’m sure we speak for our entire team when we say that we had been planning this as a meeting of a lifetime. However, we have agonised about the prospect of going ahead with the meeting as scheduled, specifically because of the spectre of Covid19 hanging over us.
The plans for the ICHG2021 are progressing well and the International Scientific Programme Committee (ISPC) and Local Organizing Committee (LOC) have made excellent progress in the planning of the meeting, being on track to launch in March 2021. Despite our organisation being well advanced, we have consulted widely regarding maintaining the meeting as scheduled or moving it further on in time.
Amongst those we have consulted, are the Presidencies of:
- the African Society of Human Genetics (Professor Ambroise Wonkam),
- the Southern African Society of Human Genetics (Prof Karen Fieggen
- the leadership of national societies of human genetics in different countries in Africa and world-wide, and
- the International Federation of Human Genetics Societies (Prof Michele Ramsay)
Essentially there are five main reasons for the postponement:
- COVID-19 is a global pandemic that has changed the world as we know it, impacting every community and country world-wide with severe and wide-spread morbidity, mortality and economic hardship. This has impacted mobility and travel, especially internationally and it is uncertain when it will again be feasible to obtain visas and travel to conferences. The timeline remains uncertain, but international travel restrictions, flight availability and affordability, are likely to last at least for another 12 to 18 months.
- It has been our dream to bring the global human genetics community “Back to Africa” and back to the roots of humankind here on the African continent, using the strap line ‘…coming home’. An entirely virtual conference could not possibly have the impact and joy of being together on African soil. A physical gathering, at least of a sector of our community, would immeasurably enhance the conference
- The young people of our community need to meet in person and share experiences, and they need to develop global perspectives and wider understanding, that would have far more impact in person.
- The South African authorities have deliberated at length and although it is uncertain how the pandemic will develop in the country, they are proposing that tourism activities for international travel are likely only to resume in February 2021, leaving too little time for getting visas and travel arrangements in place for March 2021.
This would be a unique opportunity to plan for an historic gathering, on emerging from a pandemic, to unify our community and to reflect on the origins of humanity and the impact of our environment on our global health and wellbeing.
Taking these factors into account, we are now formally sharing the news that the ICHG will be postponed to 13 – 17 February 2022.
In addition to thanking each of the academics/geneticists on board the LOC and ISPC, I wanted to issue a very special thanks to Carolyn Melnick, Rowan Moss and the team from Scatterlings for walking through this exciting yet uncertain journey with us.
We look forward to your continued engagement. Please do not hesitate to write to us directly, or to Carolyn (Carolyn: email@example.com) to share your feelings, thoughts or suggestions.
Raj Ramesar and Charles Rotimi
(Co-Chairs LOC/ICHG 2021)