Like many colleagues, we are unsure about the likely impact of the COVID-19 virus (and the efforts being taken by governments to contain it) on plans for travel and conferences this year. 

At the time of writing, the New Zealand Government has restricted travel both from and via Iran and mainland China for all who are not New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. In addition, anyone travelling to New Zealand from Northern Italy or Korea is asked to remain in isolation for fourteen days after arrival in New Zealand. This applies also to all flights transiting through these countries. The restrictions are reviewed every 48 hours.

These restrictions would apply to relatively few of those who have already submitted abstracts for the Congress. At the time of writing, the New Zealand Ministry of Health is not recommending that event organisers should alter their arrangements. Nevertheless, we are conscious of the wider concerns for the well-being of all those who might attend and for others who might be affected by their attendance. We are aware also that a number of universities have either advised staff to restrict all but essential travel or have withdrawn funding for travel altogether. The greatest difficulty is the uncertainty that this will create at a time when we would otherwise expect many of you to be registering for the conference and to be making travel plans.

In the circumstances, we recommend that you delay making travel reservations. We will be closely monitoring advice from government and international agencies, and the decisions made by other scholarly associations planning meetings in the latter part of the year. We hope that developments over the next three to four weeks will provide sufficient clarity for us to make a decision about whether or not to go ahead with plans to meet at the end of August, or at some other time. We will provide a further statement in early April and—if necessary—extend the early bird registration deadline to take account of the delay. There will be a short delay also in announcing the award of travel grants.

This is an important decision and one that we believe should neither be taken in haste nor delayed unnecessarily. We ask for your patience and we hope, for everyone’s sake, that the virus will be contained and that life for all those affected may return to something closer to normality, including those opportunities for meeting and exchange which are so crucial to our shared scholarly endeavours.

Will Sweetman and Satoko Fujiwara

on behalf of the organising committee