As we are starting to take some steps towards ending lockdown, more questions and dilemmas arise. Shows, festivals, sports and mass-gathering events were the first to be affected, and it appears that they will be the last to return to normal.
While some countries have already begun to open their theaters and cinemas, one question remains – how to do it safely, while upholding all the precautionary measures without going bankrupt?
Every venue will need to meet the new standards. Therefore, its management will be required to build new models which will comply with the current regulations. Also, governments and local councils can assist by proving the affected venues with grants and financial aid. By doing so, they will encourage more businesses to return to normal, despite the current difficulties and restrictions. Another option is to wait until a vaccine will be found and the crisis will be over, which to me personally, seems unreasonable.
Enabling large crowd to attend cultural events is a not simple task; besides the technical challenges, there is a psychological obstacle, which reflects a genuine concern of the public, and the governments, regarding a second wave of the virus. Therefore, holding and planning events in the post Covid-19 era, needs to be managed broadly and inclusively.
All performers need to operate based on the ‘chess’ model. This model states that if one of cast or production members is infected, then all members involved will have to go into self-isolation. That why we need to help them to avoid unnecessary contact with their surrounding environment. COVID-19 tests can be made to different team and cast members every few days to ensure that they are not infected with the virus or carry it.
The remaining staff members will be wearing high-quality protective gear, which will include face masks and disposable gloves. They will maintain high hygiene in order to reduce their chance of being infected, as well as to protect the audience and keep them safe, as much as possible.
Priority will be given to outdoor events, which allow more people to attend, but it could also be done in closed venues.
In order to attract many people, the event has to be branded as a safe zone. Therefore, organizers need to describe in detail all the safety measures and regulations that will be implemented, as well as expected behavior codes.
When purchasing the tickets, customers will choose an approximate area they would like to seat in, but not specific seats. Meaning, the tickets will not include a seat number. These areas will be surrounded by a transparent partition to prevent infection between groups. It is preferred if tickets will be sold to large groups, meaning family, friends or colleagues. This way the attendees, mostly combined of medium-large groups, will not fear spreading, as they are surrounded with people they know. The costumers will be informed regarding their specific seats when the ticket sale ends, in order to maximize the amount of people we are allowed to enter the venue, while keeping a minimum of unused seats to create gap between the attendees. .
The attendees will be asked to sign a form, in which they guarantee they will not attend if they feel unwell. Under those circumstances, they can either choose an alternative date to attend the show, or they will be reimbursed for their ticket.
Queues have to be managed in order to minimize contact between the different groups. This can be done by opening all the gates and emergency exits in the venue and directing the crowd to the appropriate entrance, according to their place of seating. In every entrance, a staff member will conduct temperature checks, in addition to the required security and ticket checks. The floor will be marked with signs instructing the attendees where to stand, while keeping a safe distance of two meters apart, so that each group maintains a safe distance from other groups.
The venue will provide disposable gloves and face masks (which can be branded and exclusive), which the attendees have to wear, as long as they are not sitting in their seats.
Inside the venue, one-direction signs will be placed on the floor, in order to create one-way paths. Unused Chairs will be removed to have additional access.
The bar will remain closed, but the public will be able to order drinks and snacks in advance, which will be placed in a tray on or around their seating area. Digital or hard copy menus will also be handed out, so guests can order from their seats without creating extra and unnecessary movements. All food and drink will be pre-prepared and hermetically sealed at the time of serving.
It is very important to maintain a high level of hygiene throughout the event, with an emphasis on door handles and the toilets area. For this purpose, cleaning staff must be increased by recruiting additional members. The venue will undergo rigorous disinfection between events. The disinfection date will be visible and known to the public in order to create a sense of transparency and reliability.
These are only examples of measures that need to be implemented and managed professionally in order to re-open big venues and stadiums, as we are trying to re-introduce mass gathering events. This requires us to be pro-active and to think of creative and safe ways to manage the mass. Detailed and thorough planning of Crowd management will provide a better dynamic and a safer and enjoyable environment.
Culture and Sport play an important role in times of crisis. They strengthen personal and social resilience, and greatly contribute to the recovery of the economy.
Let us not forget that this crisis is not just a health crisis; it has significant implications on individuals and the society as a whole, effects we can see in the near future and in the long term. However, with financial aid provided by the government, thorough management and personal responsibility – the shows can and must go on.
Wishing for better days
Ofer Grinboim Liron
Israeli expert in crowd management at events and complexes