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Follow up to consultation on COVID management for IETF 115

7 Sep 2022

In early August 2022, the IESG and IETF Administration LLC asked the community for feedback on a proposed COVID management policy for IETF 115.

Approximately 50 people responded to the consultation, many providing their feedback privately. Thank you to all who responded.

The feedback received in response to can be broadly summarised as follows.  Please note that this summary is not intended to validate or invalidate any of these positions, nor reflect the numbers who supported each position, and that not all the detailed points raised are included.

  1. Agree with the proposed policy on a practical basis, because 
    1. wearing masks is an effective means of reducing transmission and without them, IETF 115 could become a super-spreader event; and/or
    2. the impact on communication etc is not a showstopper; and/or
    3. effective remote participation facilities are provided 
  2. Agree with the proposed policy on a personal basis, because
    1. it’s what I personally need in place to feel safe enough to participate; and/or 
    2. wearing masks is not a burden and if others need me to do it, then I am happy to do so.
  3. Do not agree with the proposed policy on a practical basis, because
    1. wearing masks has too great a detrimental impact on the meeting; and/or
    2. meeting participants will drop their masks when they are socialising outside of the meeting anyway; and/or
    3. masks/vaccines do not prevent transmission
  4. Do not agree with the proposed policy as the IETF should stick to what the local regulations are, because
    1. the IETF community are not infectious disease specialists and the local regulations, which are primarily science based, should be trusted; and/or 
    2. it will not be possible for participants to avoid being in very crowded places with almost nobody wearing a mask because the rest of the locality is not observing the same restrictions as our policy.
  5. Do not agree with the proposed policy because my personal situation is such that
    1. I cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons; and/or
    2. I choose not to be vaccinated; and/or
    3. I cannot wear a mask for medical reasons; and/or
    4. I choose not to wear a mask..

There were also some practical suggestions:

  • Allow better masks than N95/FFP2.  (This is actually identifying an omission from the consultation as the intent was to allow that).
  • Ban eating in the meeting rooms.  

The feedback identified that community opinions were widely varied. There is therefore little prospect of reaching a rough consensus, especially given the irreconcilable nature of some of the views expressed. 

The IESG and LLC Board have listened and tried to find a reasonable path forward.  Ultimately, it is our view that the decision on whether to participate onsite is a matter of personal choice and personal risk assessment and we see our role as setting a policy that balances the views of the community with an eye towards attempting to maximise onsite participation because that is best for the IETF.  

We understand that many in the community need effective COVID management practices in place in order to feel safe at an onsite meeting.  Equally, however, we recognise that COVID management policies are being loosened or withdrawn globally, and our trajectory must be to eventually implement only the local requirements and no more.  

In this context, we have decided to continue with an active COVID management policy for IETF 115 that is similar to that for IETF 114. This is in contrast to the tightening proposed in our initial call for feedback.  We have also decided to address the two issues of mask wearing and vaccinations separately, based on our assessment of the relative risks involved.  

When it comes to mask wearing, we recognise that meeting rooms are confined spaces with varying amounts of ventilation, and being in them is unavoidable for onsite participants.  We also note that the science is very clear that masks of a certain standard are effective in significantly reducing COVID transmission. However, we also note that in London and the UK in general, masks are not required anywhere outside of medical facilities and are very rarely worn.  Finally, we can report that our negotiations with the venue for their staff to wear masks have been unsuccessful and they will not require their staff to wear masks.

Our mask policy for IETF 115 London will therefore be:

  • Masks must be worn in meeting rooms and are recommended for common areas but not required.
  • In meeting rooms, masks may briefly be removed for eating and drinking, but that cannot be an excuse to leave them off for long periods.
  • In meeting rooms, active speakers, defined as those who are at the front of the room presenting or speaking in the mic queue, can remove their mask while speaking.
  • No exemptions for mask wearing, medical or otherwise, will be allowed.
  • Masks must be equivalent to N95/FFP2 or better, and we will continue to make such masks freely available.

When it comes to requiring vaccines, while we note that the science is clear that the risk of unvaccinated people transmitting COVID is higher than for vaccinated people, we believe that allowing people to participate onsite who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, in the context of the mask policy, outweighs that increased risk. We also note that, at the time of writing, the UK does not require vaccination to enter the country and that there are no requirements for venue staff to be vaccinated.  Our COVID vaccination policy for IETF 115 London will therefore be:

  • We will require participants to declare that either they are vaccinated against COVID or that they are unable to to be vaccinated for medical reasons.  Note, this will be a single declaration, not two, so that we do not identify those who are unvaccinated. 

When it comes to tests, our policy for IETF 115 London will be:

  • Tests are not required, but are recommended and free self-tests will be provided.

We recognise that many in the community will be unhappy that this policy does not go far enough in their preferred direction. The IESG and IETF LLC does not see rough community consensus emerging, and hence a judgement call is required.  For IETF 116 Yokohama, we will again consult the community, though we note that the venue  currently mandates mask wearing and they expect that requirement to remain in place for several more months.

If you have any further views on this matter then they can be shared on the public admin-discuss@ietf.org mailing list.  If you have any questions, then please feel free to reach out to me directly at exec-director@ietf.org. 


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