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Planning a COVID-Safe event in Sydney and Greater NSW

A quick guide to planning events under COVID-19 restrictions - from creating a COVID-19 Safety Plan to hiring extra security guards and cleaning staff.

Relaxed restrictions have finally arrived for our residents of NSW, with Monday 11th October being marked as “Freedom Day”. There’s no doubt that everyone in NSW, and in particular the 5 million people of Sydney, have been itching to get back to shopping, going to bars and enjoying events after a tough 4-month lockdown (you might have seen the  scenes of the queues of hundreds outside of a Western Sydney Kmart on Sunday night!).  

Cash registers are ringing, and with patrons desperate to go out, the hospitality and the events industry is set to boom, especially given the further relaxations of restrictions forecast very soon. The good news is this boom isn’t going to be short-lived, according to reports released this year, entertainment events are forecast to grow by 12.4% globally by 20281. 

As an events partner, we are seeing festivals and gigs back on the cards for late 2021 and 2022. We’re pleased to see one of NSW’s biggest festivals - Byron Bay Bluesfest, who Agile Group have been working with for many years - confirmed for April 2022. So, it seems we’re finally starting to see normality coming soon when it comes to festivals.

Although the industry is bouncing back, there are still additional COVID related precautions and procedures events managers need to factor in when hosting an event of any scale in NSW, or nationally. Here is a quick guide for COVID-Safe event planning in NSW. 

Public health orders and exemptions 
Firstly it is important to note, public events and activities can only be permitted if they comply with the current public health orders. The current rules allow the double vaccinated to do the following as of the 11th October 2021: 

  • People can leave their 5km radius, but those in Sydney cannot leave the Greater Sydney area 
  • Weddings and funerals can have 100 attendees 
  • Stadiums can welcome 5,000 people 
  • Ticketed outdoor events can have 500 people 
  • Weddings and funerals can have 100 attendees 
  • Restaurants can have up to 20 dining at a table (if they meet the density limits) 
  • Bars can open with patrons sitting, or standing if outdoors 
  • Gym classes with up to 20 people and indoor pools will be open 
  • Retail stores can open with a density limit of 1 person per 4sqm rule

From the 18th October 2021: 

  • Ticketed outdoor events can have 3,000 attendees 
  • Nightclubs can reopen for seated patrons (no dancing) 
  • No more masks for office workers 

From 1st December 2021: 

  • Masks will only be mandatory for public transport and front of house hospitality staff 
  • Most venues moving to the 2sqm rule
  • Additional freedoms for those not fully vaccinated

Those who are not double vaccinated cannot enjoy these relaxations, so increased screening at venues will be required to ensure your guests are vaccination compliant. 

Exemption requests can be made to public health orders. The Minister for Health may grant an exemption if there are exceptional circumstances and when the applicant demonstrates how public health risks will be controlled.  

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Creating a COVID-19 Safety Plan 
A COVID-19 Safety Plan is the process of registering your business’ plan for mitigating the risk of the spread of COVID-19 at your venue. You need to register your COVID-19 Safety Plan with NSW and it is mandatory for hospitality venues, major recreation facilities, and outdoor events to complete one.  

Your COVID-19 Safety Plan covers details like physical distancing and adhering to the square metre rules, screening before entry, ventilation, hygiene and cleaning, and record keeping. It asks how you plan to manage these restrictions – for example will you be hiring security to enforce check in procedures? Or using a dedicated cleaning team to maintain cleanliness procedures? 

It will also ask for a contingency plan should someone at your venue have Coronavirus. For example deep clean procedures.  

For large events, you will need to prepare a Large Event COVID Safety Plan, which includes procedures for multi-day events, singing, queuing and crowd control.  

You will need your COVID-19 Safety Plan to register your business as a COVID-Safe business with NSW. This will provide you a unique QR code for COVID Safe Check-in with the Service NSW app. It also provides a Service NSW business online form for customers who can’t use the QR codes. It will give you access to online resources for your business. 

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Security presence 
General rule of thumb for an event is having 1 security guard per 100 attendees, this ensures your guests’ safety. However, given the increased procedures relating to the COVID check in, and the higher volumes of patrons wanting to attend venues, you might want to consider increasing the number of event security staff to run a faster check-in process and to help with crowd control. However, it is best to discuss your needs with your security provider regarding the specifics of your event and the number of guards needed. 

Cancellation policy 
Consider whether you should allow flexible booking, or if you can implement a cancellation policy that allows customers to cancel based on COVID-19 factors e.g. being unwell or awaiting test results.  

Increased cleaning procedures 
As part of your COVID Safety Plan you will need to detail how you plan to maintain an hygienic atmosphere to mitigate the spread. This could involve a cleaning schedule such as regular wiping of surfaces, and more frequent routine cleans. 

The increased volume of cleaning required could put strain on members of staff if this is in addition to their regular role; for example requesting bar staff wipe surfaces like handrails every 30 minutes will distract them from their primary role of serving customers. You should consider hiring a dedicated cleaning team to maintain the rigor required. A professional cleaning team will also have been correctly trained in COVID-19 cleaning procedures. 

You will also need to consider a deep clean contingency plan should your venue or event have an infected patron attend.  

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Event management 101 
In addition to COVID specific plans, here’s a reminder of other details that will also need to be outlined for any event: 

  • Permits and licensing 
  • Site management 
  • Waste management and sustainability  
  • Traffic control  
  • Egress planning (emergency and evacuation mapping and planning) 
  • Logistics and transport 
  • Event staffing 

Event planning is already challenging, hindered more so by an ever-changing COVID landscape. If you require assistance in streamlining your event operations across crowd care, cleaning and waste management, egress planning, or logistics, reach out to use to get COVID-safe advice. We have offices in every state so are knowledgeable with the latest COVID-19 updates for your region. 

Contact us

1 Allied Market Research data, 15th March 2021

[Information correct as of 15th Oct 2021] 

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