World Health Organization releases new guidance for outdoor events and mass gatherings

The World Health Organization headquarters sign seen here in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 29.
The World Health Organization headquarters sign seen here in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 29. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Saturday released new guidance for mass gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, recommending a number of possible changes to large events -- once they’re allowed to take place.

Holding gatherings outdoors, limiting attendance to healthy people and staggering arrivals could all help limit the spread of the virus, according to the guidance.

“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,” the guidance said. But it said large events offered benefits, too, such as providing employment and boosting psychological well-being.

“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 guidance said.

The WHO called on public health authorities and event organizers to perform a risk assessment before any gathering and listed a number of steps organizers could take if large events do occur, such as:

  • Staggering arrivals
  • Increasing the frequency of transport
  • Designating seating
  • Venue capacity could also be adjusted
  • Events could be held virtually or outdoors

Some recommendations focused on participants, reminding people to observe physical distancing, cough etiquette and hand hygiene practices.

People at risk of developing severe illness – including those over the age of 65 or with pre-existing medical conditions – could be advised to stay away, or special arrangements could be made for them.

The WHO recommendations included a number of other measures as well, such as limiting the duration of events and providing on-site isolation facilities for people who become sick.



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