Agora Novi Sad is less than four months away. The GT asked main organizer Novak Simin and his team about the biggest challenges ahead, the impact of covid for the Agora and how they avoided covid cases at their New Year’s event. “The rise of Omicron has set us back a bit and we are currently working with the health authorities to get a permit to organise the event”, they told the GT. “However, we believe this will be solved soon.” They also have a clear view on the pandemic: “From our perspective it would make the most sense to accept only vaccinated participants or ask for mandatory PCR tests before the arrival.”

Golden Times: You just had a successful New Year’s event. How did it go, what were the highlights?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: The event went quite well, considering we had some unforeseen last-minute changes, but in the end both the organisers and the participants were very satisfied with it. We had 35 participants. As for the highlights, people liked so many different activities that it is hard to select one. However, from the organisers’ side we would say the Day Party on the 31st was definitely something that caused the greatest excitement.

GT: There are reports of many covid cases at other New Years events, but you managed to stay covid-free. How did you manage this? Were you lucky or did you have a good covid strategy?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: To be honest we believe we were both lucky and followed a strategy.

The Agora Novi Sad team is looking foward to your visit!

GT: What did the strategy look like?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: We accepted only people that were vaccinated, we also tried to keep the group isolated from the outsiders, so we were the only ones staying at the accommodation and we opted to be alone at all the activities that we could. We believe these actions actually had the greatest effect. Of course, we were lucky that nobody brought covid with them to the event.

GT: With Omicron rising, is it wise at the moment to have physical events?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: We think we proved it is possible to organise a physical event. On the other hand, it is difficult to say if it’s wise to organise ones. What we believe is that they can be organised with caution and that people are craving for live events.

Big crowd – no covid: the participants in AEGEE-Novi Sad’s New Year’s event were vaccinated.

GT: What kind of advice for a covid strategy do you have for other event organisers? What are the dos and don’ts?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: Try to isolate the group as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask for extra precautionary measures. Try to control the group as much as possible and try not to have outsiders in the event as you simply don’t know what can happen.

GT: The Agora will take place in a few months. How are the preparations going?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: The preparations are going okay so far, the rise of Omicron has set us back a bit and we are currently working with the health authorities to get a permit to organise the event. However, we believe this will be solved soon. Other than that, everything is going well according to the plan. The venue and the accommodation will actually be in the same place, with just parallel sessions taking place at a different location, which is basically just across the street. The dates are fully fixed, so people can start planning their trips and book their schedules from the 10th to the 15th of May, possibly a bit before as well if they’d like to join some of the pre-events.

The New Year’s event group stayed together without much contact to other people.

GT: What are the biggest issues you still have to solve for the Agora?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: At the moment the biggest issue is trying to predict the development of the pandemic, and getting the permits to officially organise the event. Other than that, we would say it’s trying to find a place for the European Night, as it simply doesn’t look appealing to host such an activity to anyone.

GT: Agora means sitting in plenaries for days and being close together basically 24/7. What’s your strategy to minimise covid cases there? You said there won’t be a testing a vaccination mandate – did the Omicron rise change your mind?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: We will have to discuss this with the CD and the new Chair Team, from our perspective it would make the most sense to accept only vaccinated participants or ask for mandatory PCR tests before the arrival of the participants. However since we still haven’t discussed this with AEGEE-Europe we cannot give a definitive answer yet.

GT: How are the local rules? What happens if someone gets diagnosed with Covid during the Agora?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: At the moment they would need to undergo a five-days quarantine, after which they could get tested again and if they are negative would be able to leave the quarantine, otherwise they’d need to self-isolate for another five days. This actually changed recently, so we are still waiting to see how the situation will develop closer to the Agora

GT: Anything else you would like to mention?
AEGEE-Novi Sad: We are really looking forward to organising the Agora and will do everything we can to make sure Covid doesn’t affect the first live Agora in more than two years. For all of you AEGEEans there, we can’t wait to welcome you in our lovely city!

AEGEE-Novi Sad is an antenna of great hospitality!