Mass gathering events and reducing further global spread of COVID-19: a political and public health dilemma

WHO Novel Coronavirus-19 Mass Gatherings Expert Group

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presents countries with major political, scientific, and public health challenges. Pandemic preparedness and reducing risk of global spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are key concerns. Mass gathering (MG) events2 pose considerable public health challenges to health authorities and governments. Historically, sporting, religious, music, and other MGs have been the source of infectious diseases that have spread globally.3 However, the scale of the problem has declined over the years as better public health measures have been implemented at MGs in response to the World Health Assembly's endorsement on Dec 22, 2011, of the 130th Executive Board Decision “Global mass gatherings: implications and opportunities for global health security” that encompassed joint planning, enhancement of health infrastructures, and taking proper pre-emptive and preventive measures to control infectious diseases on an international scale.4 Since then, many MGs have been held safely and successfully without any major communicable disease issues arising,3, 5, 6, 7 even for MG events held during three WHO declared Public Health Emergencies of International Concern: the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa during the H1N1 influenza pandemic; the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Football tournament in Equatorial Guinea during the outbreak of Ebola virus disease; and the Rio 2016 Olympics during the Zika virus outbreak.8, 9
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1096-1099
Number of pages4
Issue number10230
Early online date20 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2020


  • COVID-19
  • mass gatherings
  • global spread
  • health dilemma
  • political and public


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