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Guidance for organisers of events and gatherings

This guidance is for people who work in a setting related to events/gatherings or are looking to plan an event in the near future with COVID-19 mitigations in place. For reference, a gathering refers to a planned or spontaneous event, indoors or outdoors, with a small number of people participating or a large number of people in attendance such as a community event.

See also:  General COVID-19 guidance for businesses

How to plan a COVID-19 aware event

Event organisers should make initial preparations before planning an event to promote healthy behaviours, environments, and operations that reduce the spread of COVID-19 in line with current Public Health guidance and advice.  

Actions to take into consideration when planning an event:

  • Ensure your staff and attendees/audience know that they must stay at home if unwell with COVID-19 symptoms or if they have been told to self-isolate – Check-in with staff members before an event to ensure they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms or have not been told to isolate. If staff or attendees are instructed to self-isolate, it is because there is a high risk that they will spread COVID-19 to others, even if they feel well and have no symptoms at all. Further information in regards to identifying COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Provide adequate ventilation when indoors, or in enclosed spaces such as marquees (or similar) - Ventilation is the process of introducing fresh air into indoor spaces while removing stale air. Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can help remove air that contains virus particles and prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Consider how best to ensure good ventilation in your premises and fresh air as part of your risk assessments. Further information on ventilation on indoor spaces.
  • Increased cleaning frequency - Regular cleaning and sanitation schedules, especially of key touch points. Remove all unnecessary touch points, especially those that cannot be sanitized.
  • Provide hand hygiene facilities - Provide additional pop-up indoor and outdoor hand washing/sanitiser stations. Ensure you have facilities to support strong hygiene practices for your staff and customers/attendees.
  • Encourage and promote the use of face coverings - It should be strongly advised that face coverings are worn in crowded or indoor spaces with limited ventilation, it is however still personal choice. Consider if you wish to introduce your own policy at your event regarding face coverings. Further information on the use of face coverings.
  • Enable people to purchase tickets in advance - Increase the use of eTickets where possible at events to collect contact details of attendees and reduce the requirement for the purchase of tickets at events which can be associated with queuing and congestion.
  • Encouraging attendees to respect each other's space - Promote positive messages to help support staff and customers making positive choices around these risks
  • Actions to consider at events venues - Consider that some customers may welcome the use of one way systems if your event is likely to be crowded. Consider how staff and customers may be more comfortable if screens were available at concession stands, bars and ticket points and review the use of floor markers so that attendees can understand their personal space.
  • Consider how to deal with temporary episodes of high density – High density or busier periods may require additional measures, for example the use of face coverings when queuing to enter or leave a venue 

Further key considerations within event planning and risk management

Indoor events: Indoor events present a significantly higher risk of transmission than similar events taking place in outdoor spaces. Poor ventilation in indoor spaces increases the risk of transmission further. Consideration should be taken to look at larger venues if the event has to occur indoors. Large open rooms with either open windows or adequate ventilation system in places should be the preference.

Outdoor events (including those with indoor areas): Although outdoor events typically present fewer risks than indoor events, there may still be some indoor spaces within outdoor venues where risks are likely to be higher.

Congested areas: Some areas are more prone to potential congestion and crowding, including concession stands, bars, toilets, turnstiles, lifts, corridors, walkways, entry/exit points and ticket collection points.

Crowd density: As crowds at an event become denser (particularly in relation to venue size and capacity), it becomes more difficult for people to be physically distant from each other, and close contact inevitably increases.

Large numbers of attendees: Events where large numbers of people attend do not necessarily constitute a greater risk than smaller events, (particularly if the event is outside or attendees are dispersed over a large area). However, end-to-end transmission risks can be increased through large numbers of people travelling to and from venues and visiting nearby premises such as pubs, bars and restaurants.

Events involving energetic activity: Observations indicate that unstructured and energetic activity with a high crowd density may lead to higher airborne transmission risks.

Risk assessment

Event organiser are strongly encouraged to carry out regular risk assessments and take precautionary measures to create a safe environment for their staff and event attendees. Risk assessments can be used to identify and to mitigate against any COVID-19 related risks.

As well as conducting risk assessments event organisers should engage with local authorities and other relevant bodies early in their event planning process, to ensure the event can take place as safely as possible. For more information in regards to the bodies that should be notified primarily within the Event Safety Advisory Group please see event safety.

Communication with attendees

Put in place a communications plan to ensure relevant information on COVID-19 measures is communicated to attendees before and during the event. Use pre-event communications to inform attendees of important information and key messaging. Promote positive messages to raise awareness of the risks and to help your staff and attendees/audience make informed choices around these risks

Key messages to promote to event attendees:

  • Being SAFE – and adopting healthy habits to protect yourself and others from Coronavirus. Think Hands, Face, Space and Fresh air in every situation.
  • Being SMART – and making informed personal decisions. Use trusted data sources to make choices about who you visit, what you do and where you go. 
  • Being KIND – and respecting others. Everyone’s situation is unique. Be kind and respect the choices that others make to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. 

Further information for event organisers and attendees