On Sunday 15 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in South Africa a national disaster. Doing so has enabled Government to launch a coordinated disaster management plan.
Some of the steps in the plan will have a severe and adverse effect on the events industry. For example:
- Gatherings of more than 100 people have been prohibited.
- Smaller, unavoidable gatherings may continue, but the organisers will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control.
- A number of travel restrictions are now in place, which will reduce the number of people able to attend an event.
At the same time, social distancing will likely discourage event attendance even when it is possible.
Greg McManus, Chairperson of the Event Greening Forum (EGF) NPO, says, “Our sector is facing a very challenging period ahead. However we fully support the South African Government in taking this step, to better protect the health and wellbeing of our people.”
“Fortunately, as an industry and as individuals we have proven out strength under pressure and are able to stay calm in the face of stressful events. These traits are going to serve us well in the coming months.”
He adds, “Fortunately, as an industry and as individuals we have proven out strength under pressure and are able to stay calm in the face of stressful events. These traits are going to serve us well in the coming months as we figure out how best to mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus disease, and how to prepare ourselves to rebuild a more sustainable and robust industry.”
Various industry bodies are gathering data on the impact COVID-19 is having on their sectors, as accurate information will help them to create realistic plans for ‘what next’. The EGF encourages everyone to share their business experiences, where relevant:
- SAACI has a 5-7 minute survey on how the COVID-19 outbreak has affected your business, whether you are an event organiser, industry supplier or venue: click here to find out more
- SATSA has a survey for the tourism service providers who have received cancellations: click here to find out more
- UFI and Explori have a survey for event organisers who have recently cancelled, postponed or gone virtual with their event: please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate
McManus also notes that many of the professionals operating in the exhibitions and meetings sectors are likely to have been in contact with people travelling from the outbreak hot-spots as identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO). He says, “I would encourage anyone who believes they could have come into contact with people travelling from these areas to keep track of everyone they have come into contact with recently. This way, in the unlikely event that the coronavirus disease has been transmitted, the circle of contacts can be quickly and easily isolated.”
Lastly, the EGF urges everyone to consult reputable sources when gathering and sharing information on COVID-19, in order to prevent misinformation and confusion. Examples of these include the South African Department of Health’s website: sacoronavirus.co.za and the WHO: www.who.int.