WHO updates its guidelines for mass gatherings

The cover page of the guideline document released recently

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revised its guidance document, Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of Covid-19, on May 29, to reflect recent new knowledge on the pandemic.

In the guidance document, WHO acknowledged both the risk of transmission posed by mass gatherings as well as the extensive political, cultural, social and economic benefits such events could bring to people and countries.

The cover page of the guideline document released recently

As such, it urges authorities to “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”.

A three-step risk assessment exercise for mass gatherings is recommended.

First, the normative and epidemiological context in which the event takes place, which is defined as the host country’s existing regulations on public health and social measures to control the spread of the virus.

Second, evaluation of risk factors associated with the event, to assess the likelihood that the event may contribute to the spread of the virus and that the health services capacity may be exceeded by such spread.

Third, the capacity to apply prevention and control measures, which is defined by the ability to implement actions that can reduce the risks associated with the event in the planning, operational and post-event phases.

Recommended actions for each of these steps are fleshed out the document, which is accessible online.

In addition, WHO has developed tools that assign a numerical score to each risk factor and control measure, thus allowing for the calculation of a resulting overall risk score, which corresponds to a defined risk category and to a recommendation for the event.

It urged a regular review of the risk assessment, as the relative importance of the risk factors associated with the event, and consequently, the relevance of prevention and control measures, are dynamic.

WHO emphasised in the guidance document that it does not have the mandate to enforce any restriction, modification, postponement or cancellation of a mass event, or to authorise that the event may proceed. It recognises that it can only play an advisory role.

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