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Corona Virus and Mass Participation Events
Updated 04/03/2020: 14:20
Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first detected in China in December 2019. To date over 79,000 people have been infected with the vast majority of cases being confirmed within China. Northern Italy has begun to feature in the news in recent days with the number of cases and deaths rising in this region, along with cases in both Iran and South Korea.
So far, the UK has 13 confirmed cases however this is expected to continue to rise as time progresses.
While COVID-19 is less infective than flu, it still has a death rate of 1-2% with the elderly and those with certain other medical conditions being at greatest risk.
Mass participation events can “amplify and spread infectious diseases, during transit to and from the event and in the participant’s home communities on their return home”. As such events are at risk of restrictions and cancellations as the situations develop over the coming weeks to months.

Current Guidance:
The World Health Organization and Public Health England have issued guidance for event organizers on how best to prepare and the following key areas should be considered:

  • Event organizers should establish direct links with Public Health England (PHE)
  • A member of the organizing team (or medical director) should be nominated as the key liaison person and they should have 24-hour contact availability.
  • Regular contact should be maintained between the organizers, PHE and the medical delivery team.
  • Channels of communications between all agencies should be agreed in advance of the event.
  • An event risk assessment should be performed with the involvement of PHE
  • Action plans should be made for every area of the risk assessment

If the event does go ahead – plans need to be in place on the management of any suspected cases presenting to the medical team, including isolation capabilities and appropriate PPE.

During the event:

  • Promote good hand hygiene and provide soap and water or alcohol hand gel and tissues in all common areas.
  • Medical staff should wear a mask while reviewing a patient, should dispose of this mask afterward and wash their hands.
  • Unwell patients should be isolated – these areas should be pre-determined.
  • Reduce crowding where possible

After the event cases of the virus may be reported retrospectively. If this occurs, then the organizers will need to work with Public Health England to provide all relevant information regarding those participants.

Public Health England Specific Advice:
People who have traveled from the following countries should not take part and should self isolate:

  • Wuhan City and Hubei Province (China) – everyone
  • Iran (if arrived after 19th February 2020)
  • Daegu or Cheongdo (if arrived after 19th February 2020)
  • Any Italian town under containment Measures. (if arriving after 19th February 2020)

Participants from the following countries should not take part if unwell:

  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Northern Italy
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Republic of Korea
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

For events in London, there is now a dedicated PHE “London Coronavirus Response Cell” which deals with all enquires regarding COVID-19:

  • 0300 303 0450
  • Monday – Friday 09:00 – 20:00
  • Saturday – Sunday 09:00 – 17:00

Commonly asked questions:

  1. Can our event go ahead?  Yes. As things stand there are no restrictions within the UK set by the government or Public Health England that require events to be cancelled. The situation is changing daily however so events should be prepared for the cancellation or to go ahead without spectators
  2. Can we give out food and drink to participants? Yes however it is advisable that drinks in cups are held at the base when handed out, and food items are only given out in their wrappers. Gloves should be warn by those handing out items and should be changed regularly. Alcohol hand gel should be available for participants and everyone handing out food or drink
  3. Do our medical team need to prepare differently to normal? Yes. the medics should plan an isolated area within the medical set up that potential patients can be isolated withinThis for example could be a portabain, a dedicated seperate room with a door or a separate tent. They should also have the recommend PPE which includes gloves, gowns, goggles, surgical face masks (for the patient) and face masks for the medics which have been fit tested for them  (these are all currently in short supply within the UK as things stand). The medics should also have a clear procedure in place on how they will manage a suspected case of Covid – 19 and this should be signed off by their local NHS ambulance service lead or Public Health official.
  4. What do we do about participants, staff etc who are travelling from abroad? It is important to identify anyone who has travelled from one of the countries listed above prior to the event day. Those who are from a category 1 country should be contacted to ascertain their UK arrival date to ensure they have completed their isolation period in time. Those from category 2 should be contacted and advised to contact 111 in they are currently unwell.
  5. What shall we tell all participants? It is important to keep everyone informed of the current development regarding Covid – 19. Reassurance is key at this stage that the situation is being monitored closely and that everything is being done to reduce the risk to participants, volunteers, staff and contractors. It is useful to reference that you are taking guidance form Public Health England and the World Health Organisation.
  6. What further measures can we put in place? Good hand washing or alcohol hand gel helps stop the spread of the virus. Therefore in communal areas it is good practice to have the availability for this – eg in event villages, start pens etc. Where possible it is helpful to spread people out to reduce close contact transference eg by increasing the physical  start pen sizes, increasing the times between waves etc. Events where participants share equipment should have hand gel or hand washing facilities at each area – eg at obstacles in an OCR so that hands are cleaned before contacting the equipment.
  7. Should we be encouraging staff to wear masks? No there is no evidence to show this is effective
  8. How long will this situation last for? This is unknown at present. Things are likely to get worse before they get better based on evidence from around the world and so events that are due to occur later in the year should be as prepared as those due to take place in the coming months

Dr Natasha Beach
Medical Director, CMO, and Consultant in Sports and Exercise Medicine
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