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WHO Releases Big-Picture Guidance for Large-Scale Events

The World Health Organization’s new publication on mass gatherings provides a high-level checklist for convention planners navigating coronavirus concerns.

On May 29, the same day that President Trump announced his intention to halt U.S. membership in the World Health Organization, the Geneva, Switzerland–based United Nations agency issued guidance for large conferences and exhibitions during the pandemic.  

The document, “Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak,” provides guidance on two levels: what to consider when assessing the risk of holding an event and how to prevent disease spread for events that plan to go forward.

For the latter, the four-page paper provides a high-level outline for prevention and control measures, broken into the three main stages of managing a large-scale event: the planning phase, the operational phase, and the post-event phase. For example, in the operational phase, the document considers a number of possible modifications related to the venue (handwashing stations, regulating attendee flow/density, etc.) and others related to attendees, as well as risk communications and managing symptomatic attendees. 

The new report can be read in conjunction with the WHO’s 180-page “Public Health for Mass Gatherings: Key Considerations” released in 2015, which goes into detail on topics such as risk assessment, working with partners and stakeholders, crisis communications, and contingency planning. However, the older document may be more relevant to truly mass gatherings, such as the Hajj to Mecca or FIFA World Cup events.

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