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Key Planning Recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the Context of COVID-19

This World Health Organisation (WHO) document aims to provide guidance to host governments, health authorities and national or international event organisers on taking decisions related to holding mass gatherings in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and on decreasing the risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and strain on health systems associated with such events, through dedicated precautionary measures.

The information includes considerations for the practical planning and management of mass gatherings, as well as technical recommendations derived from WHO guidance on specific aspects; these have been consolidated and tailored to facilitate their application to the context of mass gatherings.

This is the fourth version (third update) of this interim document.

The key messages are:

  • The decision-making process for holding mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic should always rely on a risk-based approach focused on the evaluation, mitigation and communication of risk.

  • Risk evaluation aims to identify and quantify the baseline risk inherent in the event and its context, before applying precautionary measures, in terms of both transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and strain on health service capacity.

  • Risk mitigation involves applying precautionary measures to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the likelihood that health services may be strained by the event. Precautionary measures are applied before, during and after the event; they modify the characteristics of the event or focus on strengthening preparedness and response to risk.

  • Risk communication entails dissemination of information on the precautionary measures applied, their rationale and purpose, and how they were adopted, with the aim of ensuring high compliance with rules and regulations among attendees.

  • The high density and mobility of attendees associated with mass gatherings represents a conducive environment for close, prolonged and frequent interactions between people; these factors can entail a higher risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and a potential disruption of the health system’s response capacities if large numbers of people are affected.

  • Mass gatherings should never be left unmanaged or poorly managed, regardless of their size, type and level of associated risk. Zero risk does not exist.

  • Attendees of mass gatherings should always be reminded to apply individual-level responsibility and a strong sense of civism.

  • WHO is not mandated to take, enforce or sanction decisions related to holding, modifying, postponing or cancelling mass gatherings.

The full document is available here.

WHO November 2021


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