Why do employers and organizers need to think about COVID-19?
Organizers of meetings and events need to think about the potential risk from COVID-19 because:
- There is a risk that people attending your meeting or event might unwittingly bring the COVID-19 virus to the meeting. Others might be unknowingly exposed to COVID-19.
- Although COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, it can make some very ill. Around 1 in every 5 people who catch COVID-19 needs hospital treatment.
Key considerations to prevent or reduce COVID-19 risks BEFORE the meeting or event
- Check the advice from the authorities in the community where you plan to hold the meeting or event. Follow their advice.
- Develop and agree a preparedness plan to prevent infection at your meeting or event.
- Consider whether a face-to-face meeting or event is needed. Could it be replaced by a teleconference or online event?
- Could the meeting or event be scaled down so that fewer people attend?
- Verify information and communication channels in advance with key partners such as public health and health care authorities.
- Pre-order sufficient supplies and materials, including tissues and hand sanitizer for all participants. Have surgical masks available to offer anyone who develops respiratory symptoms.
- Actively monitor where COVID-19 is circulating. Advise participants in advance that if they have any symptoms or feel unwell, they should not attend.
- Make sure all organizers, participants, caterers, and visitors at the event provide contact details: mobile telephone number, email, and address where they are staying. State clearly that their details will be shared with local public health authorities if any participant becomes ill with a suspected infectious disease. Anyone who does not agree to this condition cannot attend the event or meeting.
- Develop and agree a response plan in case someone at the meeting becomes ill with symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, fever, malaise). This plan should include at least:
- Identify a room or area where someone who is feeling unwell or has symptoms can be safely isolated
- Have a plan for how they can be safely transferred from there to a health facility.
- Know what to do if a meeting participant, staff member, or service provider tests positive for COVID-19 during or just after the meeting
- Agree to he plan in advance with your partner health care provider or health department.
DURING the meeting or event
- Provide information or a briefing, preferably both orally and in writing, on COVID-19 and the measures that organizers are taking to make this event safe for participants.
- Build trust. For example, as an icebreaker, practice ways to say hello without touching.
- Encourage regular hand-washing or use of an alcohol rub by all participants at the meeting or event.
- Encourage participants to cover their face with the bend of their elbow or a tissue if they cough or sneeze. Supply tissues and closed bins for disposal.
- Provide contact details or a health hotline number that participants can call for advice or to give information.
- Display dispensers of alcohol-based hand rub prominently around the venue.
- If there is space, arrange seats so that participants are at least 1 meter apart.
- Open windows and doors whenever possible to make sure the venue is well ventilated.
- If anyone who starts to feel unwell, follow your preparedness plan or call your hotline.
- Depending on the situation in your area, or recent travel of the participant, place the person in the isolation room. Offer the person a mask so they can get home safely, if appropriate, or to a designated assessment facility.
- Thank all participants for their cooperation with the provisions in place.
AFTER the meeting
- Retain the names and contact details of all participants for at least one month. This will help public health authorities trace people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 if one or more participants become ill shortly after the event.
- If someone at the meeting or event was isolated as a suspected COVID-19 case, the organizer should inform participants. They should be advised to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days and take their temperature twice a day.
- If they develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (i.e. a temperature of 37.3 C or more) they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (less than 1 meter) with other people, including family members. They should also call their health care provider or the local public health department, giving them details of their recent travel and symptoms.
- Thank all the participants for their cooperation with the provisions in place.