BREAKING: WHO provides guidelines for mass events

BREAKING: WHO provides guidelines for mass events

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidelines for organizing mass events.

The WHO report still sees events as an accelerator of the spread of the virus: "In the context of COVID-19, mass gatherings are events that could amplify the transmission of the virus and potentially disrupt the host country's response capacity."

But the WHO also recognizes the importance of events. For example, she writes in her report: "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." Unfortunately, the report remains vague and remains open to interpretation.

Risk assessment

The report advises governments to estimate the risk of events together with organizers. In doing so, three factors must be taken into account:

  • Normative and epidemiological context in which the event takes place.
  • Evaluation of risk factors associated with the event - appraisal of the likelihood that the event may contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and that the health services capacity may be exceeded by such spread.
  • Capacity to apply prevention and control measures. This may involve adjusting the event (venue, audience, facilities, ...) or increased preparedness of care providers.

The WHO sees these action points when organizing an event:

Planning phase 

The planning phase is the period preceding the event, when plans are developed, tested, and revised. Prevention and control measures applicable during this phase include: 

Liaison with all relevant stakeholders

  • Establishing direct links and channels of communication between event organizers, health authorities, and other relevant authorities 
  • Establishing collaboration and coordination mechanisms among all stakeholders, partners, and constituencies involved in the event 

Development of a preparedness and response plan 

  • Ensuring alignment of the event plan with wider national emergency preparedness and response plans 
  • Making provisions for detecting and monitoring event-related cases of COVID-19, reducing the spread of the virus, managing and treating ill persons, disseminating public health messages specific to COVID-19 in culturally appropriate ways and in languages used by participants 
  • Establishing a clear line of command and control, and enabling efficient situation analysis and decision-making 
  • Developing a risk communication strategy and a community engagement plan for the event aimed at keeping the public informed about the health situation, key developments, and any advice and recommended actions they should take (e.g. social media monitoring) 

Assessment of capacities and resources

  • Making provisions for human resources, procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical consumables, availability of isolation rooms, cleaning schedules, etc., in close coordination with national and local health authorities, and other relevant authorities 

Operational phase 

The operational phase is the period during which the delivery of the event services takes place. Prevention and control measures applicable during this phase include: 

Modifications of the event (related to the venue)

  • Hosting the event, at least partially, online/remotely/virtually 
  • Hosting the event outdoors rather than indoors 
  • Adjusting the official capacity of the venue 
  • Ensuring availability of handwashing facilities with soap and water and/or hand rub dispensers 
  • Ensuring regular and thorough cleaning and disinfection of the venue by designated staff 
  • Regulating the flow and density of people entering, attending, and departing the event (e.g. by increasing the frequency of transport, staggering arrivals, registering attendees, numbering entries, designating seating, marking the floor) 

Modifications of the event (related to the participants)

  • Advising people to observe physical distancing, respiratory/cough etiquette, and hand hygiene practices 
  • Advising people with higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 that they should not attend the event (e.g. those with COVID-19 symptoms, contacts of COVID-19 cases during their period of quarantine, or those coming from countries/areas with community transmission of COVID-19) 
  • Advising people with higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g. aged ≥65 years or with pre-existing medical conditions), and individuals in contact with higher-risk patients (e.g. residents in same household, long term care facility employees etc.), that they should not attend the event, or making special arrangements for them 
  • Modifications of the event (duration) o Keeping the duration of the event to a minimum to limit contact among participants 

Risk communication

  • Ensuring coordination and consistency in crafting and delivering culturally appropriate and language-specific messages to participants and the public 
  • Disseminating key messages in line with national health policies, including: Visual reminders on basic preventive measures, especially physical distancing, respiratory/cough etiquette, and hand hygiene practices. Visual reminders on action and steps to be followed by people developing symptoms of COVID-19. Visual reminders on recommended/required use of face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Surveillance of participants, aimed at detecting and managing individuals developing symptoms during the event o Detection and management of event-related COVID-19 cases should be conducted in accordance with national policies and regulations, within the framework of national health systems 

  • Isolation facilities should be made available at the event site for participants who develop symptoms, for initial assessment and triage by designated medical staff, and for their transportation to a health facility if needed 
  • Arrangements should be made with national and local health authorities regarding diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 cases identified during the event 

Post-event phase 

The post-event phase follows the conclusion of the mass gathering. Prevention and control measures applicable during this phase include: 

Liaison between event organizers and health authorities, along the following lines: o In case participants or staff develop symptoms during the event, event organizers should liaise with national and local health authorities, as well with those of the participant’s home city or country, and facilitate sharing of information 

  • Individuals who develop symptoms upon returning to their home city or country should be advised to contact public health authorities about their potential exposure 
  • Liaison between event organizers and health authorities is required to ensure that systems are in place to detect cases arising in the local population as a consequence of the event 

The full report can be found here:



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