EXPERT REACTION: COVID19 - Should we be cancelling all mass gatherings?

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The cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix and the Dark Mofo festival has raised the question of whether it is time to ban all mass gatherings. Below Australian experts respond.

Organisation/s: The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney

Expert Reaction

These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.

Dr Kathryn Snow is an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne

At the moment, there are concerns are about very large events which involve many international visitors, such as conferences and sporting events. Many of these events are being cancelled currently around the world. There has now been at least one incident in the United States in which a few people with the virus at a conference passed it on to dozens of other people. The state and federal departments of health are the most up to date source of information about what types of gatherings are of greatest concern, and their advice may change as the situation evolves.

At the same time, many employers and individuals will have their own personal considerations and worries. Some people who are elderly or immuno-compromised may feel that they want to be extra careful and avoid crowded events or places, which is understandable. Some workplaces are advising people to limit travel and to work from home, which seems wise to me personally while the situation is so uncertain. These types of 'social distancing' measures have been successful in helping some countries control the virus, and we may see broader recommendations about these types of measures in Australia in the coming weeks and months.

Last updated: 20 Apr 2020 8:06pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott is an expert in the spread and control of infectious diseases at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney

I understand there are a number of prominent medical staff calling for cancellation of all mass gatherings and events across the country. To be clear though, our nation has been preparing for the possibility of a pandemic for decades. Our plans are nuanced, and permit variation to allow for a proportionate response to the threat we face.

This is not a situation where blanket policies and measures are helpful. Each jurisdiction needs to have the flexibility and capacity to respond to an evolving situation – both when cases increase, as well as when they will decrease. Further, they need the flexibility to be able to respond to situations where one area is affected while another is not.

Our leaders and senior public health officials are receiving some of the best medical and public health advice that is available, informed by people who have been working on the possibility of this very scenario for years. I would appeal, therefore, to all commentators that we trust in our leaders, noting that they are being advised by some of the best experts in the world."

Last updated: 16 Apr 2020 8:52am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Professor Robert Booy is a researcher in child and adolescent health from the Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney and The Children's Hospital at Westmead

Vulnerable people should keep their exposures down to small numbers. People with respiratory symptoms should stay home - watch for cough, fever and shortness of breath. If you are concerned call health direct or your GP.
If you're healthy but live with an elderly or chronic illness afflicted relative, don’t go looking for the virus. 
Many events are cancelling anyway. If you decide to go, keep at least a metre from other fans - smile at them, but no touching or kissing. 

Last updated: 13 Mar 2020 2:30pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

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