Malaysia has gone into phase 5 of the Movement Control Order. Businesses are now allowed to open but must adhere to strict guidelines and if Covid-19 cases are found within the business premise or staff are found carrying affected by the virus, it will be a very costly affair to disinfect the premise and screen all staff.
Amidst the backdrop of coronavirus fears and the spread of COVID-19, event organizers, large venue promoters, and major league sports teams, must make the tough decisions on whether or not to host their events or cancel. Most events were cancelled or postponed to the last quarter of 2020. A few companies have closed down as there won’t be many clients organizing events anytime soon unless they go virtual.
The fears and realities of hosting events amidst a rising epidemic and a potential global pandemic require new guidelines and procedures for all event organizers. Once the fears subside, business must continue and major events and conferences must go on, but short of hosting virtual rooms and zero human contact, organizers will have to consider rules based on a number of factors:
1. Apply Pre-Event Precautions
Develop strict and precautionary attendance policies and restrictions. Use the latest trackers to determine whom to limit attendance from. Screen guests based on where they have visited. Ask international attendees to produce their passports. Any guests that have visited the targeted list of high risk countries in the past 60 days should not be cleared for entry into the event venues. US based events should adhere to the travel restrictions and guidance of the U.S. Department of State
Apply generous cancellation policies given the current situation or give attendees an option to apply their fees to the next year’s event.
Discourage attendees who have any flu-like symptoms to attend. Attendees who have a runny or stuffy nose, fever, cough, sore throat, symptoms of diarrhea, and symptoms of vomitting within the previous two weeks of the event should not attend the event. Event organizers should make no exceptions even if these are VIPs or Speakers.
Provide virtual attendance options. Enable password protected or public live streams of keynotes, main stage events. Provide paid attendees who cannot attend an option to attend virtual sessions via live stream platforms such as zoom, On24, WebEx, or SecondLife.
Establish data collection waivers in order to enable public health tracking. Secure waivers for global privacy regulations to track any incidents. Most organizers are implementing GDPR and PDPA waivers.
Partner with local authorities and health agencies. Closely monitor World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and all new developments. Apply new policies based on disease transmission etiologies.
Update all attendees on the latest developments. Send frequent updates to attendees on attendance criteria and on site health and safety rules. Most send a notice two-weeks in advance, one-week prior, three-days prior, one day prior, and throughout each event day.
2. Enforce Day Of Event Proactive and Cautionary Measures
Conduct temperature screenings at the event venue. Most event venue operators or event organizers will screen using thermal scanners outside the venue. All attendees will be subject to passive temperature screening measures. Individuals with temperatures higher than 100 F (38 C) should be escorted to an isolation holding room. Medical personnel will interview and quarantine the person if necessary.
Establish an isolation holding room with local public health authorities. Event organizers should work with health agencies to staff a isolation holding room for suspected cases and implementation of standard operating procedures for disinfection. The isolation room should be staffed with trained medical professionals and follow proper infectious disease protocols.
Require rigorous physical cleaning of the venue. Require wipe-downs for all microphones and speaker monitors. Increased frequency of physical cleaning and usage of appropriate disinfectant agents for door knobs, lecterns, escalator hand rails, trash receptacles, water stations, elevator bottoms, chairs, registration tables, and bathrooms. Prepare for a provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and roll out restricted entry and exit plans as needed.
Provide hand sanitizers and masks. Ask all visitors to use hand sanitizers before entering the event and make sanitizer available throughout the event. Make face masks available for all attendees if they feel unwell.
Display health advisories at event venue. Remind attendees to keep personal hygiene high, provide notices on hand washing and also minimizing physical contact. Implement social distancing (stand a minimum of 3 feet away from people). Provide health advisories near water fountains, eating areas, food preparation, trash receptacles, bathrooms, and keynote venues.
Implement a “No Hand-Shake” policy at the event. Use fist bumps, “ebola” elbow bumps, virtual hugs, air waves and hellos, and other mechanisms to replace the handshake during the crisis. Wash all hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after any eating, blowing of the nose, coughing, sneezing, and using the bathroom.
Apply massive safety measures in food preparation and serving. Consider using individually packed food instead of open buffets. While individual packages are not always eco-friendly, this exception may contain virus transmission. If using buffets, ensure that there are splash and sneeze guards or other food safety in place for serving of food. Feel free to shame guests who do not use food serving tongs or serving utensils and decide to pick things up with their hands. Enforce no double dipping rules.
Place hand sanitization devices in front of all meal and beverage stations. Many folks still don’t wash their hands in restrooms and as a backup and prophylactic, having hand sanitizers at meal and beverage stations can improve hand washing or in this case hand sanitization efficacy.
Request all attendees and exhibitors evaluate their own health and that of those they are in close contact with. Feel free to report to any event organizers about someone that you feel is unwell that you had come in contact with. Encourage attendees who are sick or showing symptoms of illness to stay home.
Increase medical personnel and security on-site. Staff up to handle medical emergencies, provide on-site diagnosis, prepare the event venues, and oversee event medical operations. Work with local infectious disease programs at hospitals and clinics to provide resources and testing kits.
3. Follow-up Post Event
Ask health outcomes in the post event surveys to attendees. Use these surveys to monitor post event for diseases transmission. See if any attendees are feeling unwell to prevent the spread of future transmission.
Prepare event attendee data in case an outbreak occurs. Expect health authorities to ask for event attendee data should an outbreak be traced back to the event. Apply data collection for tracking of attendees post event.