WHO guidelines mass gatherings

Mass Gatherings and Outdoor Events: the WHO issues New Guidelines

The World Health Organisation published New Guidelines for Mass Gatherings and Outdoor Events.

Around the world, some countries are already beyond COVID-19 lockdown and others are getting ready for it. The World Health Organisation decided to publish new guidelines for outdoor events and mass gatherings, as an update of the document entitled “Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19”, which published on 19 March 2020.

Mass Gatherings can still spread the disease

The United Nations declared that mass gatherings could still be a cause of viral spread and potential overload of health system capacities. However “mass gatherings also have advantages, like offering jobs and better mental health” is what they also stated.

The WHO recognises the importance of events

Since mass gatherings have substantial political, cultural, social, and economic implications, authorities should assess the importance and necessity of an event and consider the option that it may take place, provided all associated public health risks are adequately addressed and mitigated. 

Outdoor events have priority

Italy has a lot of attention as one of the first epicentres of the disease. It currently allows 1,000 attendees events but they must be outdoors only. As indoors events are still forbidden there is a lot of discontent in the Italian Events Community and several associations are asking the government to reconsider.

Contagion levels control the event industry

The WHO forecasts “in countries where safety measures are just beginning it is unlikely for mass gatherings to happen”. For the same reason, in countries where the same measures are “being progressively adjusted in response to evolving epidemiology, the decision to proceed with an event, and how to proceed, becomes highly relevant.”

Risk factors to take into consideration

Transport: arrivals must be spread as much as possible, increasing public transport for attendees to safely arrive at the event venue. Even more careful attention goes to international travellers to the event.

Event Venue: seats, distances and interactions must be compliant with new security guidelines. The WHO advises keeping events outdoors. There should also be a dedicated area for who feels unwell.

Attendees: they should be advised in always maintaining social distancing and antiviral hygiene. Vulnerable people – over 65 and/or with delicate health status – should stay at home and eventually be invited to access the event online. Crowd density is another factor to keep under control.

Duration: how long the event and its sessions will last; how long attendees will spend time in the same spaces.

Local Healthcare capacities: infrastructures and policies in place to identify and manage COVID-19 cases

Risk Assessment WHO guidelines mass gatherings Roxeventstaff.com

Planning phase

Clear Communication with health authorities and stakeholders

Response Plan to detect and manage any COVID-19 cases within the event

Capacities and resources such as personal protective equipment and other medical resources, availability of isolation rooms, cleaning schedules etc., in coordination with health authorities

Operational phase

This is the moment when the event is live.

What WHO states is that the event should at least be partially virtual, which is something we were expecting to see as a future trend with hybrid events.

In addition to that, clear communication should be in place with those who are seriously ill or older than 65; inviting them not to attend the event. This extends to those who are also in close contact with such people.

And finally, the duration of the event should be kept as short as possible, so to avoid any unnecessary risks.

Determination of the overall risk of the mass gathering

The WHO created a risk assessment plan you can download from their website, which can better help you identifying where your event needs to be improved and if it’s safe to go ahead.

Here you can find the WHO’s full guidelines.

Download-Covid-19-Risk-Assessment Risk Assessment WHO guidelines mass gatherings Roxeventstaff.com

Additional WHO COVID-19 Mass Gathering Technical Guidance and Tools

EventProfs opinions on Linkedin and Facebook

“I invite event organisers and event venues to focus, whenever possible, on small events, investing in technology, creating small hubs which can connect” it’s the comment of Bev Hancock, Event Professional from Johannesburg, South Africa, on Linkedin.

“Organising pre-events online to keep up engagement and look ahead” it’s the suggestion of Dominic De Gruyter from Belgium

“The alternative shouldn’t be choosing between a live or virtual event. It should be a mix of the two into a hybrid event” it’s the solution offered by Timo Kiuru from Helsinki.

“In case of the postponed event” suggests Cyril Racchetta from Basilea “it’s vital not to ‘copy and paste’ the live program into virtual. We should treat the new event as a completely new one”

Adam Fillary, from the UK, suggests to “assist the event community in its objectives to make it grow, which is an investment to obtain more attendees to postponed events”

“ Engage participants in the making process with online workshops and a content preview of the event, so you can start a conversation, send them surveys” recommends Jan Jaap Id Maur, from the Netherlands. Besides he says “invite them to share their personal stories in theme with the event, so you can use them once live”

Here below a word cloud of the most common words used on the opinions online about the event industry online

Wordcloud WHO guidelines mass gatherings Roxeventstaff.com


The road still looks uphill. The lack of events since the past three months looks easier than the recovery ahead, as WHO’s guidelines are too generic and not clear enough. The even industry is wide and every city and country has different approaches. Therefore, we can only prepare ourselves the best way we can for when events will be back because they will.

The events industry is worth $1 trillion. It is unbelievable how governments and authorities do not see this after 3 months into the crisis. How do you think the event industry can have its voice heard?

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