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Vienna called, so we went!
- Stephanie McCammonIETF Secretariat
10 Feb 2022
In anticipation of the IETF’s first hybrid meeting on 19-25 March, a small group from the IETF Secretariat and NOC team traveled to Vienna last week to meet with the meeting venue staff and work through our standard checklists as well as some new challenges.
This short report from our visit briefly describes our experience, provides some sense of the current situation at the meeting venue and in Vienna, and shares our expectations for the onsite portion of the IETF 113 meeting. We do expect the situation—particularly as related to COVID—to continue to evolve over the next weeks so the exact experience during IETF 113 is likely to be slightly different. We will be updating the IETF 113 FAQ with information as it becomes available.
Arriving at the meeting venue
Our arrival at the Vienna airport was seamless. During immigration our passports were checked along with our (U.S.) vaccination cards, and our visit could begin. From the airport to the hotel there are a number of travel options, including the train which takes about 24 minutes and costs under 5 euros, or a taxi which takes about 20 minutes and costs about 35 euros. Hotel check-in was very well organized, with hand sanitation stations everywhere, plexiglass between the staff and ourselves, a newly cleaned tablet, and then we were off to our rooms.
About the IETF venue
We know the IETF community despises touch pad elevators, but I can promise that this is the worst feature of this freshly renovated hotel. The lobby area is lovely with a brand new lobby bar that has plenty of seating for those post-meeting meetings. The staff is kind and efficient, and cleans the public areas regularly. Hotel employees are tested every 48 hours and are dedicated to keeping guests safe. Breakfast operates much the same as it did pre-Covid, with a nice buffet and floor arrows to direct traffic. Masks are required when you are not at your table. The meeting space has more rooms with windows than any venue I’ve seen, and there are power outlets and workstations everywhere you look.
In my 14 years organizing IETF meetings, there has rarely been a venue that I feel is so perfectly located. There’s a mall directly across the street with many fast dining options (including vegetarian meals and sushi!) and two grocery stores. The smaller grocery store has an amazing selection of prepared items - from salads to sandwiches, sushi to yogurt bowls, and it’s a great resource for a quick snack or lunch. There’s also a larger grocery store accessible in the mall, and opening times for all of the mall outlets are very convenient. If you walk three minutes in either direction you are in bustling urban areas with restaurants and shops, and only a ten minute walk to the old center of the city.
Onsite COVID requirements
The current requirements in Vienna are designed to ensure that we can have a safe and productive meeting, and one of those requirements is to have a designated Covid Officer onsite for the IETF 113 meeting. Our Covid Officer met with us to walk around the venue with the hotel staff. She made further time available for us to ask endless amounts of questions and create our plans for the meeting. With regulations changing rapidly and potentially a new set of guidelines to deploy at the end of February, we have multiple plans as options to move forward. While we hope that regulations will be such that the meeting can feel as close to ‘pre-Covid’ as possible, we are planning for more stringent regulations as well so we can adapt as necessary and give attendees the experience they’ve been missing.
Some of the possible eventualities that we are planning for are mandatory testing, how to efficiently check and track tests, registering at a seat in a meeting session for contact tracing purposes, coffee break service to ensure everyone can still get their cookies (and healthy snacks for those who opt out of cookie-mania), how to hold a welcome reception that allows for socialization but follows the regulations in place, and many more. As things change we are prepared to adapt our plans and our Covid Officer is in regular contact to let us know how things are changing.
In the scenario where testing is required to attend the meeting, a recent negative test will be required to enter the meeting space. While the IETF is planning to provide testing onsite for all registered meeting participants should it be required to attend the event, we wanted to check out the local testing options as well to provide further options to attendees. We attempted to get tested at the mall, but this was free only for Austrian citizens and 25 euros for everyone else. We figured we would try out the free testing options first, and there are many! About a block and a half from the hotel are shipping containers that have been made into testing stations. On one side they administer gargle PCR tests, and on the other rapid antigen tests (administered nasal swab). We discovered that these testing stations are not able to email or text results to US based numbers, however I went back 14 hours after my gargle test and was able to quickly pick up my results, and only 20 minutes for my antigen test. The antigen test was sufficient for me to fly home to the US.
At- home gargle tests are also freely available, so I explored that option as well! With the at- home test you register once, perform the test via the online portal, and drop off the test at a grocery store (there is a drop off location about one block from the hotel). My at-home gargle test results were emailed to me within 11 hours. The IETF is working with our Covid Officer to secure large numbers of at-home gargle tests regardless of if testing is required or not, to allow for attendees to test at any time.
Departing and further information
Flying home to the US was also an extremely easy experience, aside from the usual work required for international travel. Checking in at the Vienna airport was routine; they did ask if I had a negative test with me, but didn’t need to see it. My antigen test results were checked in Frankfurt before getting to my gate. Of course requirements will vary depending on where you are traveling to.
While much is new and challenging, the IETF Secretariat and NOC team are confident and excited to see you in Vienna and online, and have a truly successful IETF 113. Registration for IETF 113 is currently open, and reservations for the venue hotel may be made directly.
Looking ahead, we will email every registered onsite participant an update on conditions and procedures in place in Vienna a week before the first day of the meeting. We also expect to provide short daily email updates to all onsite participants during the meeting to be sure everyone has the latest information. In the meantime, please do review the IETF 113 Frequently Asked Questions webpage, and send email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question about IETF 113 that is not answered there.