COVID-19 safety guidance for large events

We have developed this guidance to help create a safe environment for large events in NSW.

This guidance aims to support organisers of large events and gatherings to manage the risk of COVID-19 at their event. COVID-19 Safety Plan templates are available to help organisers keep a safe environment for large events in NSW. 

The main risk at a large event is the possibility of a person with COVID-19 attending. Risk increases depending on the person’s level of infectiousness and their actions, including how closely and how long they interact with others. This guidance aims to reduce these risks where possible.

COVID-19 Safe Check-in

To help with contact tracing, COVID-19 Safe Check-in is required for certain high risk premises and events, including pubs, registered clubs, nightclubs and indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 attendees. 

  • Organisers of indoor music festivals with over 1000 people in attendance must take reasonable steps to ensure that everyone checks in with the ServiceNSW app or provides contact details to the occupier.
  • If an event has multiple areas within the grounds, such as hospitality venues, implementing record collection at each of these may decrease the number of people required to self-isolate in the event of a confirmed case attending the event.

COVID-19 safety risks for large events

Risks have been listed here along with potential mitigation measures that can be put in place to help create a safe environment for large events.

A person infected with COVID-19 attends the event

This puts staff and other attendees at risk of contracting the virus.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that people do not attend the event if they have symptoms of COVID-19 including sore throat, cough, fever or runny nose.
  • Take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that persons do not attend the event if they have been advised by NSW Health that they are a close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Consider whether appropriate cancellation or flexible booking is available, allowing customers to cancel due to COVID-19 factors, such as being unwell, being required to isolate, or awaiting test results.
  • Consider how to maximise other measures that may help prevent transmission, such as masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene.
Large crowd numbers

Large numbers of people increase the risk that someone attending is infected with COVID-19 and increase the number of people who could be exposed. Currently, there are restrictions on music festivals, which are limited to a maximum of 20,000 attendees. People who are not fully vaccinated can only attend an indoor music festival if it is limited to a maximum of 1,000.  

Potential mitigation measures

  • Implement a maximum capacity limit and strategies to enforce this limit.
  • Minimise mixing (for example by ticketing or zoning), to decrease the risks associated with large crowd numbers. Zoning involves managing the event in multiple smaller gatherings (with designated entry and exit points, bathroom facilities, food and service venues, and no mixing between these groups).
Crowding and close proximity

Crowding and close proximity of people increases the likelihood of transmission and the number of people exposed should a person infected with COVID-19 attend.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Consider creating zones for events across a large space, or implement measures to support the flow of people in a single direction, to manage crowding risk.
  • Consider seated events where possible, and place barriers or spacing markers to further manage crowding and proximity risk.
  • Have strategies in place to manage gatherings that may occur immediately outside the premises and in any designated smoking areas.
  • Where practical:
    •  encourage private transport options to minimise crowding on public transport
    • coordinate with public transport to minimise COVID-19 risks associated with transportation to and from the venue if crowding may occur.
Queueing

Queueing can lead to crowding and close proximity and can prolong the contact time between people who do not know each other, making contact tracing more difficult.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Promote physical distancing with signage or by asking people to stand on floor markers spaced 1.5 metres apart when queueing for tickets or to order food or drinks. Have separate entry and exit points wherever practical.
  • Have strategies to minimise crowding at security bag-checking arrangements, such as additional staff and asking people to open their own bags for visual inspection.
  • Consider implementing other measures if long lines are anticipated, such as virtual queues so people can wait elsewhere, or have time-based entry to manage queueing numbers.
Mixing or mingling of people who don't know each other

Mixing and mingling of people increases the likelihood of transmission to new social networks and to a larger number of people if a person infected with COVID-19 attends.

Potential mitigation measures

Restrict movement across an event to decrease mixing or mingling among people. This could be achieved through measures such as: 

  • ensuring people remain seated as much as possible
  • establishing zones to manage attendees in multiple smaller gatherings with designated entry and exit points, bathroom facilities, food and service venues
  • consider wearing masks (where you cannot maintain physical distancing), practising physical distancing and good hand hygiene.
  • organisers choosing to make it a condition of entry that patrons are fully vaccinated and wear a mask.
Loud volume speech, cheering and singing

Increased respiratory droplets from vocal cord movement and voice projection increase the risk of transmission from someone infected with COVID-19 due to other people breathing in these respiratory droplets.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Consider capacity limits if an event is likely to feature loud speech, cheering or singing, and having seating available.
High energy dancing

High energy dancing and aerobic exercise can increase exhalation and inhalation of respiratory droplets. Dancing can also result in mingling and encourages people to be near each other, which increases the risk of transmission if someone infected with COVID-19 attends.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Have strategies in place to ensure crowding does not occur in areas where people may dance, such as ensuring there is sufficient security around stage areas or speakers to disperse crowds.
  • Provide areas for people to sit with physical distancing at musical performances.
Intimate contact such as hugging and kissing

Intimate contact increases the risk of transmission if someone infected with COVID-19 is involved. Environments where this is more likely to occur have dancefloors, the service of alcohol, and potential for illicit drug use.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Consider providing seating to help manage mixing and proximity between people
The service of alcohol

Alcohol can affect people’s behaviour, increasing the risk of poor compliance with physical distancing, hand hygiene, mingling and louder speech. These factors can increase the risk of transmission and the number of people exposed.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Provide designated bar areas with seating available for patrons to consume alcohol
  • Recommend premises serving alcohol, even a temporary pop-up, complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan for hospitality.
The use of illicit drugs

Like alcohol, illicit drug use can affect people’s behaviour. Drug use is also more difficult to monitor given its illicit nature.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Promote safe events that discourage drug use.
  • Use a range of communications channels to promote safe behaviours including, but not limited to, social media, digital advertising, traditional media and public relations.
Poor ventilation in indoor venues

Poor ventilation increases the likelihood of transmission occurring should someone infected with COVID-19 attend.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Prioritise outdoor settings for large events wherever possible.
  • Review the 'COVID-19 guidance on ventilation’ available at COVID-19 guidance on ventilation and consider which measures are relevant to your event.
  • Implement steps to improve ventilation when using indoor venues, such as:
    • opening windows to improve natural ventilation, where possible
    • increasing total airflow supply
    • increasing the airflow from outdoors to indoors where possible by, for example, running mechanical systems at maximum outside airflow for 2 hours before and after spaces are occupied
    • disabling ventilation controls with automated settings that reduce air supply based on temperature or occupancy
    • improving central air filtration where possible
    • having staff work in well-ventilated zones where possible
    • ensuring exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operational when the building is occupied.

For technical advice, consider consulting relevant experts such as ventilation engineers and industrial or occupational hygienists.

High frequency touch points

These increase the risk of transmission should someone attend who is infected with COVID-19.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Ensure there are sufficient staff throughout the event who will frequently clean high-frequency touch points with a detergent and disinfectant solution. Staff should wash their hands with soap and water before and after cleaning.
  • Consider eliminating some high-frequency touch points through contactless entry and contactless payment methods.
People attending multiple large events over a short period

A similar demographic of people attending consecutive large events increases the risk of exposure.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Consider spacing out the timing of large events when they target a similar demographic (for example aged 18 to 30, or 50 and over).
  • Minimise multiple large events within a close timeframe where possible (such as multiple events within a 2 week period). This will allow time to monitor for spikes in community transmission of COVID-19 after one large event, before the next one is held.
Managing unwell attendees

At large events this requires additional considerations and planning, including personal protection for staff and volunteers providing health services.

Allocate space for isolating and assessing people with COVID-19 symptoms, and getting them safely to a testing clinic.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Ensure adequate supply of face masks are available to medical staff and patrons for the duration of the event.
  • Plan the layout of medical tents or services to ensure adequate space for the isolation of multiple people separately.
  • Develop a plan for the steps that will be taken should a person present unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, including how they could be safely removed from the event to a testing clinic or hospital.

 

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