Status update February 2021

The following conversation with expeditioners for our Sweden, Germany and Armenia expeditions, planned for June/July, will give you a good indication of where things are headed at the moment. We do not think this will change until at least autumn 2021, probably even later.

In a nutshell, a majority of expeditioners do not feel comfortable with the idea of being on expedition in June/July. Social distancing on expedition is an issue, as are questions over travel to/from the host country and what happens when returning home. Many expeditioners have already opted to defer to 2022 because of these issues.

As a result, Sweden and Armenia are now extremely likely to be deferred and we are working with partners on 2022 dates now. Germany may be consolidated into one team only in June 2021, or it may be postponed to the autumn of 2021. We are working on these options now.

Full details of the conversation and straw poll results below:

—————————————-

From: Biosphere Expeditions [mailto:info@biosphere-expeditions.org]
Sent: 16 February 2021 06:32
Subject: June/July expeditions Sweden/Germany/Armenia IV

Dear expeditioners for Sweden/Germany/Armenia

All but a couple of you have now replied, thank you, and the results are clear:

A two-thirds majority of you support making vaccination a requirement. A majority of those who are not sure also tend towards vaccination. Only 7% are against.

Close to half of you are tending towards deferment to 2022 or have deferred already. Those unsure also tend towards deferment by about 70%. Less than a quarter of you are still keen to come on expedition this June/July.

Your opinions about and actions towards deferment mean that Sweden and Armenia are now extremely unlikely to run in 2021 as too many of you have deferred to 2022 already to make the 2021 expeditions viable (and because we are expecting zero recruitment to those expeditions for 2021 under the current circumstances). We are working with our partners on 2022 dates and will keep everyone informed.

For Germany, the ranks are thinning too for 2021 and as such we are looking at two options: (1) Consolidating into one team in July 2021 or (2) in autumn 2021. We will let the Germany team know about these options and their dates soon and then take it from there.

Thank you for working with us on this. We will now communicate with each expedition team individually about options and dates.

Regards

Dr. Matthias Hammer
Executive Director
Biosphere Expeditions

—–Original Message—–
From: Biosphere Expeditions [mailto:info@biosphere-expeditions.org]
Sent: 14 February 2021 11:22
Subject: June/July expeditions Sweden/Germany/Armenia III

Dear expeditioners for Sweden/Germany/Armenia

Most of you have now responded, thank you (latest results are attached). We’re still missing answers from quite a lot of the Sweden expeditioners and a smattering of the other expeditions, so if you can, please write to us with your thoughts.

Quite a few of you have also taken these updates to think about their participation and have opted to defer to 2022 already.

YOUR biggest concern seems to be travel / quarantine restrictions to get to the host country and back. Of course, it is unknowable today what the situation will be like in June/July. Needless to say that we will keep monitoring this.

WE share this concern and also two others. Firstly, whether social distancing will be possible and realistic on some expeditions (for example Sweden and Germany, where we have people share rooms and there are not enough to put everyone in singles). Secondly, whether – given the deferrals we have had already – there will be enough people left to run a particular expedition.

We’ll keep you updated about developments and will also send you final straw poll results in due course.

Regards

Dr. Matthias Hammer
Executive Director
Biosphere Expeditions

—–Original Message—–
From: Biosphere Expeditions [mailto:info@biosphere-expeditions.org]
Sent: 13 February 2021 08:53
Subject: June/July expeditions Sweden/Germany/Armenia II

Dear expeditioners for Sweden/Germany/Armenia

Thank you to those who have written back. Preliminary results of 24 out of 62 possible responses to date are attached and contain a clear message thus far.

Those who are undecided about 2021 or 2022 cite various reasons, the main ones being restrictions inside the host country as well as travel restrictions there and back. Many are unsure whether they are allowed to leave their home country or whether they will be required to quarantine on arrival in the host country or indeed when they return back home. This is a good reflection of the uncertainty around travel that prevails at the moment and is something that is unlikely to change for a while as various virus mutations make their way around the globe with countries racing to curb their spread and to vaccinate as quickly as possible in parallel.

For Armenia, the recent war is a worry also. Our response to that is that (1) the latest round of fighting is over and (2) there is now a ceasefire agreement akin to the one in 1994, which provided a generation of relative stability and (3) that whatever hostilities there have been since the 1980s, our proposed expedition study site has never been in dispute or affected by any hostilities.

Interestingly, fear of infection does not seem to play any role at all.

If you have not replied yet, please do let us have your thoughts.

Regards

Dr. Matthias Hammer
Executive Director
Biosphere Expeditions

—–Original Message—–
From: Biosphere Expeditions [mailto:info@biosphere-expeditions.org]
Sent: 11 February 2021 08:42
Subject: June/July expeditions Sweden/Germany/Armenia

Dear expeditioners for Sweden/Germany/Armenia

As you might have seen on https://t1p.de/ec2z, we have now deferred all 2021 expeditions until June. In June/July, we have our expeditions to Sweden, Germany & Armenia scheduled.

Whilst our strategy to decide about the feasibility of each expedition 6-8 weeks in advance only still stands (also see https://t1p.de/ec2z), we would like to ask your opinion on future strategies in this e-mail.

Early indications that vaccinations also significantly hamper virus transmission are good and encouraging (see https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-55913913). So one option could be to require proof of vaccination as a prerequisite for taking part in an expedition.

Now, we are all of different ages, have different ailments, backgrounds and jobs and will therefore be in different risk groups. We also all hail from different countries with varying speeds of vaccination and priority groups.

So today we have three questions for you:

1. What do you think of requiring a vaccination in order to take part?

2. Are you likely to have had two vaccination doses by the time your expedition group starts?

3. Are you minded to defer to a later expedition if a vaccination is required or are you minded to defer anyway, because you don’t feel comfortable with going on expedition in June/July (or don’t think it will be possible)?

Please just press reply to share your thoughts on all this with us. Replying is of course optional and will help us to come up with a suitable strategy going forward. No decisions have been made yet and this e-mail is meant to involve you and make sure your voice is heard as we move forward and make further decision.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Regards

Dr. Matthias Hammer
Executive Director
Biosphere Expeditions

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