The World Health Organization has put forth new guidelines for mass gatherings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The entity outlined its health and safety recommendations in a new document May 29, offering updates from WHO’s previous guidance issued in mid-March.
Organizers of mass gatherings – including concerts, festivals and sporting events – should connect with local and national health authorities for a risk assessment. This comprehensive evaluation provides the basis for decisions on whether events take place through examination of local context, risk factors associated with holding the event and the ability to reduce risk with control measures.
Should organizers and authorities determine that events can be held while mitigating risk of spreading COVID-19, WHO recommends a number of modifications. Holding events “at least partially” remote is a top control measure in place. Additional guidelines include holding events at outdoor venues rather than indoors, reducing venue capacity, providing plenty of available hand washing stations or sanitizer dispensers, regulating the entry and exit flow of crowds and ensuring proper area cleaning by venue staff.
Visual cues for keeping yourself and others healthy are also recommended by WHO, meaning venues which hold gatherings will likely give visual reminders for physical distance, coughing etiquette, hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment.
Contact tracing “aimed at detecting and managing individuals developing symptoms during the event” is among the guidelines, while isolation facilities should also be made available at an event site should attendees develop any symptoms. If symptoms arise during an event, organizers are asked to coordinate with national and local health authorities to detect other possible cases in a given population as a result of the event.
While the World Health Organization does not mandate any restrictions or postponements of mass gatherings, it encourages those involved in staging or taking part in such events to consider all options in regards to public health risks.
“Mass gatherings are not merely recreational events; they have important implications on the psychological well-being of large number of individuals (e.g. religious events), can play an important role in promoting healthy behaviours (e.g. 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.