MoH updates guidelines for mass gathering

James Kon

With mass gatherings to increase to a maximum of 50 people from July 6, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has updated its guidelines regarding such public events.

“The definition of a mass gathering refers to any planned or spontaneous event attended by a sufficient number of people to strain the planning and response resources of a community, state or nation (WHO, 2008),” said the MoH in a statement.

The specific requirements for current mass gathering guidelines include that the mass gathering is limited to not more than 50 people for each event.

Staggered arrivals – for example, attendees arriving and leaving at different times or taking turns to attend an event – is not permitted.

Permitted events under the new mass gathering guidelines are private functions, religious, wedding, family and charity events held at private residences or purpose-built premises such as banquet halls, restaurants and other event venues. Workplace events that are allowed are meetings, courses, training, conferences, job interviews, written tests and social events.

Organisers of recreational events are required to comply with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MYCS).

The events must be restricted to a two-hour limit at any one time.

For events organised at private residences, hosts are required to list all attendees to assist with contact tracing if required, such as providing a register book or guest book.

For events organised at purpose-built premises, the management of the premises is required to obtain a specific BruHealth QR code, which is to be printed out and displayed at the entrance for scanning by the attendees while entering and leaving the premises.

Event organisers must ensure that the attendees practise social distancing for example by placing seats at least one metreapart during the event. They must also ensure a healthy environment by providing clean and adequate restroom and handwashing facilities with soap and water, disposable towels or tissues, and covered rubbish bins. If possible, hand sanitisers must also be provided.

Event organisers must also ensure that the place is well-ventilated, with fans and open windows, if necessary. The premises must be cleaned and sanitised before and after the event, especially frequently touched surfaces such as tables, chairs, countertops, handrails and door handles.

Surfaces should be wiped with soapy water and rinsed with clean water. When dry, disinfect the surfaces by wiping with a piece of cloth that has been soaked in bleach diluted one part bleach to 49 parts water, before leaving to dry or rinsed with clean water.

Disinfection may also be done by wiping surfaces with alcohol (70 per cent) impregnated wipes and leaving them to dry.

All attendees, including staff or committee members are advised to practise self-hygiene at all times, such as frequent handwashing or using hand sanitiser. They are to reduce physical contact or touching, including shaking hands or embracing; perform their social responsibilities including the correct cough and sneeze etiquette at all times.

The use of face masks is recommended, including cloth face masks, provided that they are washed daily after use.

Those who are having symptoms of infection or those with a high risk of developing a severe form of the infection are advised from attending until they have fully recovered.

Refreshments may be provided through service by waitstaff or a dome set. However, buffets may be considered if the event is held at a private residence or privately at a purpose-built premise. If the event is held at a restaurant, the buffet is not permitted to be served for other restaurant patrons.

Failure to comply with these given instructions is an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act (Chapter 204), which is punishable with a fine of up to BND10,000 or imprisonment for up to six months, or both.