Fears over the coronavirus will see the Nobel prize banquet canceled for the first time in over half a century, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported on Tuesday. The Nobel Foundation, which manages the Nobel Prizes, said the award ceremonies would be held in “new forms”.
However, Nobel Prize winners for 2020 will be announced but the banquet, which is always held on December 10 (the anniversary of the death of the prizes’ founder Alfred Nobel) and normally draws around 1,300 guests, will not go ahead. This is the first time since 1956 that the lavish banquet has been canceled, according to the foundation.
“There are two problems. You cannot gather many people next to each other. And it is uncertain whether people can travel to Sweden to the extent they want,” Nobel Foundation Chairman Lars Heikensten told Dagens Nyheter.
The event traditionally marks the end of the so-called Nobel Week, when the year’s prize-winners are invited to the Swedish capital Stockholm for talks and the award ceremony.
“The Nobel Week will not be as it usually is due to the current pandemic. This is a very special year when everyone needs to make sacrifices and adapt to completely new circumstances,” added Heikensten.
The last time the banquet was canceled was in 1956, in protest at the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary. It was also canceled during World War One and Two.
This year’s laureates and their work would be highlighted in different ways, most probably the prize winners would receive their awards in their home countries or at embassies.
Traditionally, the prize-winners join the Swedish royal family and some 1,300 guests for the banquet at Stockholm’s City Hall after the award ceremony. The winners, except Peace Prize laureates who are honored in Oslo, also usually give speeches during the dinner.
Many of the events would be held under new arrangements because of the uncertainty around large gatherings and international travel, the foundation said.
The announcement of the prizes (Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, and Economics) would still be held scheduled between 5 and 12 October, the Foundation added.