World Health Organisation shares new advice on mass gatherings

The organisation last issued official guidance on staging events back in March

The World Health Organisation has issued their latest advice on holding mass gatherings during the current coronavirus pandemic.

The ‘Key planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak’ document was published last Friday (May 29) and intends to “provide guidance to host governments, health authorities and national or international organisers of mass gatherings on containing risks of COVID-19 transmission associated with mass gathering events.”

In their first update on holding mass gatherings to be published since March 19, the WHO say their latest guidance “reflects the evolution of the knowledge on the pandemic over the past weeks” and advise that governments and local authorities can consider allowing mass gatherings to take place when it is safe to do so.

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“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,” the document states.

“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.”

Glastonbury 2019
The crowd at Glastonbury 2019

The organisation goes on to recommend a number of possible modifications for planned mass gatherings, including hosting the event outdoors rather than indoors, adjusting the official capacity of a venue and staggering the arrival and departure times of attendees.

The WHO also recommend that attendees should observe physical distancing and hand hygiene practices while attending a mass gathering, while also advising that those “people with higher risk of transmitting… [or] developing severe illness from COVID-19 should not attend the event”.

A further recommendation from the WHO is having event organisers and health authorities being required “to ensure that systems are in place to detect cases arising in the local population as a consequence” of a mass gathering.

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Summarising, the WHO’s advice states that “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. Events 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.”

Last week, a dance music festival in Kansas City was given the go-ahead to be staged in September — making it one of the few 2020 music events to have not been cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

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