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WHO releases new guidance on ‘mass gatherings’

The WHO has issued updated planning recommendations to promoters, suggesting they stagger arrivals and hold events outside where possible, among other advice

By IQ on 01 Jun 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) building in Geneva

The World Health Organization building in Geneva


image © US Mission photo by Eric Bridiers (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued updated guidance on holding ‘mass gatherings’, such as large music and sports events safely, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The document Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19, dated 29 May, updates previous guidance from 19 March. The new version, which “reflects the evolution of the knowledge on the pandemic over the past weeks”, sees the WHO recommend that event organisers stagger arrivals, hold events outside where possible and restrict entry to healthy people, among other guidelines.

Other recommendations include reducing venues’ capacities (as has already happened in the US, Europe, New Zealand and elsewhere); increasing the amount of transport to and from the event (to reduce contact in crowded buses/trains); designating seating (presumably to enforce social distancing); and ensuring the widespread availability of handwash/sanitiser for eventgoers.

In contrast with its guidance in March – when it recommended that “all countries with community [Covid-19 transmission should seriously consider postponing or reducing mass gatherings” – the WHO now says authorities should, recognising the positive role such events play in societies’ cultural lives, consider allowing ‘mass gatherings’ to take place where it is safe to do so.

“Mass gatherings are not merely recreational events; they have important implications on the psychological well-being of large number of individuals (eg religious events), can play an important role in promoting healthy behaviours (eg. sports), provide employment for a great number of people, and could leave a legacy of improved assets or capacities developed as a result of hosting a mass gathering event,” reads the document.

“Generally, events associated with a low risk of Covid-19 transmission … may be considered sufficiently safe to proceed”

“Since mass gatherings have substantial political, cultural, social, and economic implications, authorities should assess the importance and necessity of an event and consider the option that it may take place, provided all associated public health risks are adequately addressed and mitigated.”

The WHO further recommends that those particularly vulnerable to the virus, such as the elderly, should still stay away, and that there should be isolation facilities on site for anyone who becomes ill during an event.

“Generally, events associated with a low or very low risk of Covid-19 transmission and low strain on the health system may be considered sufficiently safe to proceed,” the guide concludes.

However, “[e]vents with a moderate, high or very high level of risk might not be sufficiently safe to proceed and would require a more thorough application of prevention and control measures. If the risk of spreading Covid-19 remains significant after application of all control measures, postponing or cancelling the planned event should be considered.”

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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