Top 5 tips for staying safe at conferences and events in the COVID-19 era

In several areas of the world, large-scale conferences and events are resuming for the first time in 18 months. To help your return to in-person conferences and events, we provide tips on how you can gather safely in the COVID-19 era.

1. Always wear a mask indoors, regardless of the policy of the venue that you are attending. Conferences and events by their very nature are a perfect breeding ground for COVID-19. However, wearing a mask reduces the risk of catching the disease by about 65%. The mask should be of high quality. Opt for mask types that are proven to be effective such as KN95, N95 or three-ply surgical masks. Bring enough spares to change wet or soiled masks and consider replacing disposal medical masks every four to six hours.

Bring a pocket-sized supply of hand sanitiser, and regularly apply. If you are running a booth, consider installing several hand sanitising stations and bring disinfectant wipes.

2. Depending on which country the event is being held in, there may be a COVID-19 test and trace scheme in place, and in some cases their use is mandatory. Test and trace systems can however be either overly sensitive or insensitive, so it is also best practice for you and your colleagues to keep track of the people that you have met at the event.

You and your colleagues should test daily for COVID-19 in the days before, during and after the event. The best way to do this is through rapid lateral flow testing. The tests provide a result within 15 minutes and are 99.9% accurate. In some countries, lateral flow tests are freely provided by health authorities. If you however have any symptoms of COVID-19, the official recommendation is normally that you should get a PCR test.

3. Even if the event that you are attending is indoors, there are several ways that you can avoid close confinement. Social distancing sharply reduces the risk of infection by COVID-19. When designing the setup of a room or booth, try to make it as open as possible to allow there to be at least a 1.5 metres distance between people. If possible, try to improve natural ventilation by leaving doors and windows ajar.

4. Aim to keep meetings with people short and sharp to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A meeting of no more than 15 minutes is generally a good recommendation. Indeed, 15 minutes is normally the minimum time frame used when contact tracing. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a set in stone rule. For example, if someone that you are interacting with is not wearing a mask, then you should keep the meeting to less than 15 minutes. Or if the meeting is outdoors or in a well ventilated area then it is okay to have a meeting for longer than 15 minutes.

5. It is also important to be vigilant of the ever-changing regulatory environment of the COVID-19 era, when attending conferences and events, especially if travelling to another city or country. Entry and exit requirements, lockdowns and bans on large gatherings can all be enacted by local authorities, often with little notice.

Traditional risks can also have an actual or potential impact on itineraries and public safety. This includes terror attacks, political developments, demonstrations and petty crime. Due to climate change, there has also been an increasing rise in extreme weather. Stay alert and prepared if bad weather is forecast, and follow official guidance.

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