Regular attenders of the London and Frankfurt book fairs are familiar with the phenomenon of the post-fair cold or flu. For some, Covid has been the post-London Book Fair affliction this year. On April 8, almost 4,000 people in London tested positive for Covid: it is unlikely that everyone in the largely maskless crowds at LBF would have managed to steer clear of the virus, despite precautions such as the requirement that attendees show proof of vaccination or of negative tests.
Anecdotal evidence on social media indicates that a number of book trade figures have tested positive for Covid following the fair. Among them were several staffers from HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, as well as literary agents and scouts. U.S. literary agent Natalie Edwards of Trellis Literary tweeted: 'What no one tells you about being in a publishing power couple is that your gf will test positive for Covid right after the London Book Fair and get trapped in the U.K. indefinitely.'
At the fair, very few people chose to wear face coverings. A source said: "We were probably one of 100 people wearing masks and the organizers weren't wearing masks." The efficiency of the fair's precautions was also questioned: Oneworld chief Juliet Mabey tweeted that the checks were 'perfunctory', adding, 'Three of our staff going in the exhibitors' entrance weren't checked at all.' Agent Hannah Sheppard, said: 'I have made the point in my feedback survey to the fair that they didn't put enough measures in place to keep people safe.' At Bologna, attendees had to wear FFP2 NR face masks — but at Bologna, there was a legal requirement to enforce precautions, whereas at London the fair organizers had no such obligation.
In a statement the London Book Fair said: "The safety of attendees and exhibitors was paramount during the organization of the London Book Fair, and with thousands of publishing professionals coming to Olympia, we were careful to put Covid safety measures in place to protect those present as much as possible. All attendees had to demonstrate their Covid status in order to enter Olympia, with visitors unable to do so being turned away.
"Mask wearing was encouraged in signage throughout the venue and sanitizer points were available across Olympia. In order to monitor potential cases, lateral flow tests were available at no cost onsite in a dedicated testing center which ran throughout the three days of the fair, with many attendees making use of this facility. Events like the London Book Fair are key to the publishing industry as we emerge from the pandemic, and we worked hard to make the fair as safe as environment as possible as it returned in person this year."
This article originally appeared in BookBrunch.