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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 prepare a COVID-19 Safety Plan

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, either directly (person-to-person) or indirectly (through contaminated surfaces). This guidance aims to reduce these risks where possible.

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.

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

Potential mitigation measures

  • Exclude staff and attendees who are unwell.
  • Advise staff and attendees to check nsw.gov.au for current public health advice on locations attended by people confirmed to have COVID-19. Anyone who attended these locations at the listed date and time and who is required to get tested and self-isolate must not attend the event.
  • Implement processes for symptom screening on entry or just before the day of the event.
  • Consider whether appropriate cancellation or flexible booking is available, allowing customers to cancel due to COVID-19 factors, such as being unwell or awaiting test results.
  • Consider how to maximise other measures that may help prevent transmission, such as masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene.

When the program is designed for the same group of people to attend over several days, this potentially enables greater mixing of participants in residential-like settings and social settings where we know COVID-19 can be more easily transmitted should someone infected with COVID-19 attend.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Adjust the event program to a single-day event or repeat the same single-day program over multiple days to decrease the time that each person is attending the event. The longer a person infected with COVID-19 attends a large gathering, the more people they are likely to come into contact with.
  • Minimise events that encourage or provide onsite overnight accommodation, particularly those with shared facilities (e.g. bathrooms, kitchens) and additional social events. These arrangements may significantly increase the risk of transmission.

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.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Implement a maximum capacity limit and strategies to enforce this limit.
  • Minimise mixing (e.g. 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/exit points, bathroom facilities, food and service venues, etc., and no mixing between these groups).
  • Repeat a single-day program over multiple days to decrease crowding.

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

  • Density restrictions, such as one person per 4-square-metres, can reduce the risk of crowding.
  • Consider creating zones and implement density restrictions within these for events across a large space, or implement measures to support the flow of people in a single direction, to manage crowding risk.
  • Ensure events are seated where possible, and place barriers or spacing markers to further manage crowding and proximity risk.

Queueing can lead to crowding and close proximity (see above) 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 - such as 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 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:
    • restricting crowd numbers
    • ensuring people remain seated as much as possible
    • establishing zones to manage attendees in multiple smaller gatherings (with designated entry/exit points, bathroom facilities, food and service venues, etc.)
    • wearing masks, practising physical distancing and good hand hygiene.

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 further capacity limits or density restrictions if an event is likely to feature loud speech, cheering or singing, including ensuring 1.5 metres of physical distancing is maintained and having allocated seating.

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

  • Avoid designated dancefloors for the general public.
  • 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 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 seated events to help manage mixing and proximity between people, avoiding dancefloors, and ensuring people are sitting while consuming alcohol.
  • Minimise events that encourage or provide onsite overnight accommodation, particularly those with shared facilities (e.g. bathrooms, kitchens) and social events, as these arrangements may increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

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

  • Ensure alcohol is only consumed by seated patrons. Ensure measures are in place to enforce this, such as enclosed bar areas.
  • Ensure premises serving alcohol, even a temporary pop-up, complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan for pubs and clubs.

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

Potential mitigation measures

  • Prioritise outdoor settings for large events wherever possible.
  • 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 – e.g. consider 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.

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

Potential mitigation measures

  • Ensure there are sufficient COVID-19 Safety Hygiene Marshals throughout the event who will frequently clean high frequency touch points with a detergent and disinfectant solution. Marshals 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.

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 (e.g. aged 18—30, or 50+) to minimise multiple large events within a close timeframe (e.g. avoid multiple events within a 2 week period), where possible. This will allow time to monitor for spikes in community transmission of COVID-19 after one large event, before the next one is held.

The risk of introducing COVID-19 to new areas is increased when people from interstate or areas with undetected community transmission attend events in NSW.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Consider whether people may be attending from an area or jurisdiction with ongoing community transmission, such as a large event that usually attracts significant interstate participants.
  • Consider collecting postcode data if tickets are booked in advance, to support limiting entry to people from an area where the NSW Government has imposed restrictions.

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 facilitating safe transfer to testing facilities.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Ensure the procurement of adequate personal protective equipment for medical staff 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, and develop an Incident Action 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.

If a person infected with COVID-19 attends the event, this can cause delays in identifying and isolating close contacts.

Potential mitigation measures

  • Ensure records are kept of the name and contact number for all staff and attendees, that are digitised and provided to NSW Health immediately on request to support rapid contact tracing. QR Code or a similar contactless electronic method is preferred.
  • 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.
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