In a world blocked by the Coronavirus epidemy, one question that is topping the list of unknowns of the event business is when will the sector function again at its normal pace and how to make events safe for both organizers and attendees.
Event sector is among the ones hardest hit by the restriction measures imposed by the governments in order to fight the COVID-19 spread. Thousands of events have been cancelled, delayed or postponed.
But even after countries loosen the restriction measures and start re-launching the normal rhythm of economy and business, mass gatherings and events will be among the last to be given green light to run. In addition, mass gatherings and events will have to operate in a totally new environment and reality, considering the safety and health of organizers, working teams and attendees.
Professionals in the sphere are looking at different scenarios – “The more optimistic visions predict that after months of closure and isolation, people will be craving for social contacts, big gatherings, business, sport and entertainment shows and happenings. That number of visits will grow rapidly, following the needs of people to compensate for the missed opportunities during the burst of COVID-19”, shares Dan Firoiu, CEO of Coco Agency, a leading promoter and event organizer on the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe and the region of the Middle East.
“However, it is more realistic to think that people will be very cautious in the coming months and health and prevention measures will remain their uppermost priority”, continues Firoiu. According to him, in such situation, the ability of the event organizer to provide a safe and secure environment and communicate this with the audiences will determine the successful outcome of the event.
In March 2020 The World Health Organization published “Key planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the context of COVID-19” that points out the precaution measures event organizers and promoters shall consider when planning their events in order to secure a safe environment for their audiences.
“It is recommended that event organizers define measures to be taken before, during and after the event takes place”, clarifies Dan Firoiu.
In the planning phase, it is crucial to cooperate with the local health authorities and consider the overall epidemic exposure and situation in the country/region/city where the event is going to take place. A risk-assessment shall be made, considering the location situation, the possibility to provide enough space between the attendees, the number of sick people and such at high risk, the age of the attendees, the duration of the event, the adequacy of the local health system, its capacity and readiness to support. An action plan shall be created as of how to manage the whole event and the people flow and presence in order to minimize the chance of spreading the disease and reduce the exposure to the lowest possible levels. This action plan shall cover the whole production and run of the event, with system for control and surveillance of the audience; with dedicated teams to spread clear messages, instructions and information about the ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the event; with teams at the location that can assist people with early symptoms; with secured closed areas at the location where people with symptoms can be isolated, tested and then transported to their homes or appropriate places for health care. “Events shall also be ready to provide medical supplies and personal protection equipment of first need, like face masks and disinfection products, good personal hygiene shall be encouraged by proper communication and by providing clean water, soap and other disinfection products”, advises Dan Firoiu.
During the event, the most important actions to be taken are the risk communication, the avoidance of spreading unclear or misleading information but to have the right messages and instructions for the attendees; the encouragement of the visitors to be responsible, to stay at home if feeling sick; to be self-disciplined and follow the hygiene measures; to practice self-control and self-isolate if feeling unwell; to wear appropriate face masks if having any doubts that they might be spreading the virus. To facilitate this, the event organizer shall provide appropriate treatment facilities where people with symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested. Such facilities shall be secured with the main necessary supplies in order to provide fast-testing of the visitors, face-masks, non-contact thermometers (like infrared thermometers), as well as fast and reliable sanitizing system that ensures that the place is regularly disinfected. “Our company is already partnering with a number of producers worldwide that provide expert advice, systems and products that can facilitate these activities”, shares Mr. Firoiu. Very appropriate for this are devices like the disinfection robots that could atomize a variety of disinfectants into super dry mist and disperse to disinfection area in high-speed airflow. Such intelligent robots can save manpower and lower the infection risk effectively, as well as make disinfection more efficient and improve safety greatly. The constant surveillance of the participants is also very important. Such control and surveillance can start at the very entry of the event, by using special human body temperature detectors, thermal video cameras or disinfection channels that can significantly facilitate the initial control of the access to the event. After entering the event, the most appropriate measures for reducing the risk of COVID – 19 spread is the self-surveillance, self-control, self-isolation in case of signs and symptoms of the disease and sharing information about the current health-status of the event.
Once the event is over, there is still work to be done – the main work here is sharing information about number of sick people registered at the event, number of people in isolation, number of people in quarantine; problems faced during the event and solutions found; assisting registered sick people to return to their home cities and countries; sharing as much information as possible to spread the good practices and give feedback for improvement of the practices that showed weaknesses.
The good news is, the business is already preparing for the world after COVID-19 and although mass gatherings and events are still at the end of the queue of allowed activities, with the right pre-caution measures, they will be made possible. And when this moment comes, most important for the success of the event will be the level of preparedness of the event organizers to provide a secured and safe environment for their audiences and the ability to communicate this and spread the right message that will make people feel protected and safe when taking the decision to attend.