The recent outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has caused massive travel disruption, with countries around the world evacuating its citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. The government authorities and health officials are trying to control the epidemic-like situation by restricting travel for millions in China and abroad. With the rapidly rising death toll in China and the world, there is an emergency in China, even though the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) refuses to acknowledge the severity of the situation. This has also hugely impacted the events industry and several events have been canceled as a precaution to avoid the spread of the disease.
For instance, the fear of coronavirus gripping Hong Kong has resulted in the cancellation of exhibitions, property sales, and financial product launches. One of the most recent events, scheduled for February 5 for 600 Hong Kong stock brokerages was canceled amid the fear of the spread of coronavirus among the attendees. In such uncertain times where travel will be discouraged from and to China, more such events will likely be canceled in the future to avoid the spread of the disease.
Is it time to ring the alarm bells for event planners? Maybe, maybe not. Event planners need to take certain precautions to be better equipped to fight this deadly virus. Before we delve into what event planners can do to control the coronavirus outbreak, here are some essential things and terms all event planners should know related to the disease. The spread of coronavirus can be classified into three broad categories, namely:
- Limited Spread – a term used to describe when the infection is transmitted from one human to another only by close contact.
- Sustained Spread – this label is used to describe when the infection is spread throughout a larger population.
- Super-Spreader – this term is used to classify individuals who spread the virus to 8 or more individuals.
For now, the Chinese authorities have confirmed that the transmission of the new coronavirus is classified under the “limited category.” Many countries are now stressing the importance to control the outbreak of the virus before it evolves into even deadlier, contagious form.
As an event planner, you can also do your bit to stop spreading the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has laid out some safety guidelines that should be followed as precautionary steps. These include:
Step #1. Take care of personal hygiene:
- Thoroughly wash hands with a good soap.
- Covering mouth and hands while coughing and sneezing.
- Avoid making physical contact with people who appear sick.
- Avoid going to open markets and touching farm or wild animals.
- Avoid touching facial openings like nose and mouth without washing hands.
Step #2. Make attendees aware of first symptoms of the virus infection such as:
- Tightness in the chest
Step #3. Have a dedicated point of contact for people who are concerned about the development of symptoms or would like to know more about the disease.
Step #4. Let your audience know about such a point of contact so that they can easily get in touch with the contact should they think they are infected with the virus. Ensure that you promote this information through all your communication channels such as emails, ads, reading material, etc.
Step #4. Keep basic medical supplies handy, including surgical masks, thermometer, and medicines.
Step #5. Collaborate with the venue to develop a quarantine plan for any individual suspected to be the carrier of the disease. In case there happens to be a suspected case, do reassure your attendees about all the precautions you have taken to avoid panic and further spread of the virus.
Step #6. Keep a list of all the nearest hospitals and disease control centers along with all the relevant contact information.
Step #7. Book a reputable hotel and ask your guests to stay in hygienic locations only. That’s because very little is known about the origin of the virus and going to an offbeat location may not the best idea for now.
Step #8. If your venue happens to be in a high-risk area, then take extra measures to maintain hygienic conditions. You may want to keep sanitizers in public places and at the event so that people can use it every time they come in contact with public spaces.
Step #9. Issue an advisory for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions asking them to consult their doctor before traveling to your event. If your event is in the high-risk zone, then advisory for people suffering from diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung conditions is a must since these people are at a much higher risk of getting infected with the coronavirus.
Understand the Legality
The outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has resulted in a dilemma for event planners: canceling contracts with vendors and venues versus the safety of attendees. In a case where event planners are contacted with venues and vendors in countries with high-risk of the virus outbreak, it is advised to refer to a crisis plan to see where this situation will fit. If there is no crisis plan, then consider the impact of warnings on your meeting and on those attending. There are certainly legal limitations that event planners need to follow but remember the safety and health of your attendees should always be your first priority.
The timing of the coronavirus has turned the situation to a level of a global medical emergency. Coming along the Lunar New Year celebrations, medical experts believe that the virus is likely to spread even more in not just China but across the globe. While most of the steps we shared look obvious, many people still overlook them, thereby risking the lives of thousands of people. As event planners, it is your duty to be prepared for any such eventuality and play a critical role in saving the lives of your attendees.