March 3, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

How Australia’s Prime Minister determined he had COVID is a lesson for the events industry in the layers of COVID safety which events will need as we encourage a return to face to face amid significant levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Announcing his COVID positive status, Scott Morrison said he had taken not one but three tests on the day of his positive result.

Testing positive on Tuesday evening, Morrison said he had been testing himself daily since Sunday, with all results, including the Tuesday morning test, coming back negative. After developing a fever late on Tuesday, he took another RAT, which was inconclusive, which led him to take the PCR test that garnered the positive result.

What does this mean for events?

It adds weight to what medical experts have been telling us, that pre-event rapid antigen tests should not be the extent of COVID safety measures.

Not only are they less accurate than a PCR, they present a moment in time and there are now more data point emerging that a morning RAT doesn’t mean you’re COVID free all day.

An ABC article this week looking at the challenges faced by the performing arts industry during Omicron revealed Opera Australia is testing its performers three times a day after a member of the orchestra developed symptoms after a rapid test at noon and produced a positive result on a rapid test that evening.

This doesn’t mean we should not use RATs. They are an excellent tool for reducing the entry of COVID from the free-for-all outside world into a more controllable event setting.

But what we have to think about now is, if COVID does sneak in, what measures do we have in place for preventing further transmission within our environment?

There are masks, which are no longer mandated indoors in a number of states, as official health orders start to deviate from recommendations of health authorities, who suggest masks should still be worn in crowded settings – like events.

But there are also some less visible and likely more comfortable protocols – from an attendee perspective – that we can put in place to reduce the transmission risk and these sit firmly around ventilation.

As Dr Norman Swan discussed at Get Local, event managers need to ask the difficult questions of venues around ventilation rates including air exchanges and CO2 levels. He even recommends event managers have their own CO2 monitors.

There are other measures too, sometimes as simple as opening exterior doors or spreading an event over a larger space. Bringing in air purifiers or choosing outside venues or inside-outside venues should be considerations. micenet has even heard of a particularly safety-conscious event using high drawing fans which are part of a convention centre’s fire safety system to increase ventilation and airflow.

It might sound like another inconvenient layer to what’s already a complex planning process, but it can used a marketing tool for those hesitant about in-person attendance and even post-event, it’ll be a major reassurance to attendees if news of a COVID case at the event does emerge.