As we enter Alert Level 1 in South Africa, the relaxation of regulations around capacity at events has allowed for a 50% venue capacity capped at 250 pax indoors and 500 attendees outdoors. While not ideal for the reopening of the industry, this adjustment has at least allowed for smaller events to start operating albeit not yet at a financially viable level. The Events Industry is prepared for much larger event capacities limited by floor space rather than a specific number. We anticipate this step to be imminent as the risk of spread diminishes and we learn what protocols we need to have in place to limit spread at organised gatherings.
As event specialists, our priority is, as always, focused on the safety of our performers, attendees and practitioners. COVID-19 has posed a new and unforeseen risk to our industry. In June, the SA Events Council developed and published a comprehensive set of Event Re-Opening Guidelines outlining the steps that one can take to enable the safe re-opening of events and we are working hard to ensure that the confidence and trust in our ability to keep our events safe, grow quickly. The last thing we want as we begin this process, is for there to be events that do not adhere to the safe protocols outlined in the Guidelines, which pose a risk to attendees and artists resulting in a back-step in the regulations and possible risk liability and reputational risk to those involved.
The Guidelines are simple, easily understood and accessible but thorough to ensure enhanced mechanisms are adopted to provide a safe environment and demonstrate a duty of care. Taking into account every step of the event process and mitigating exposure at each juncture, they can be applied universally using the World Health Organisation’s 5-tier risk level categorisation scale varying from very low-risk to very high-risk. Of course, at the same time, we need to take into consideration the many differences in event types and audience capacities as well. For Event Planners, this is simply an extension of the complex set of logistics in play at every event, on any given day.
The importance of communication throughout has also proved to be an important factor in building confidence amongst attendees. We cannot ignore the strong psychological impact of attending an event in the current climate. For many, the initial gatherings with more people than they have been accustomed to after so many months is a big step and one that is accompanied by trepidation and even fear. Building trust and confidence to attend is paramount. When attendees know what to expect before they even arrive on site and what measures are being undertaken, the stress factor decreases exponentially.
Many venues, corporates and caterers have their own sets of safety practices and this is sometimes a stumbling block to align thinking across the sector regionally and nationally. We urge all events organisers to communicate and apply the Event Re-Opening Guidelines as a foundation standard on every event planned. If necessary, additional venue/corporate-specific protocols can easily be overlaid to satisfy compliance for all stakeholders, especially meeting the requirements of corporate SA and the sponsors involved, thus ensuring the event specific COVID-19 management plan lays the foundation for a safe event. It is up to each and every Meetings Planner, Event Organiser, Promoter or Production House to self-regulate using these basic safety protocols in the same way as we have always done for non-COVID-19 related event safety practices.
Event safety experts have devised what we believe to be the safest way to reopen the events industry and it is up to us to set the benchmark and make sure that the South African events industry continues to deliver the world-class service and safety levels that we are known for globally.
- by Mike Lord of Event Safety Alliance, Interim Chair of the Event Safety Council and Board Member of SA Events Council