What is the evidence for mass gatherings during global pandemics?
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Background: We previously reviewed the evidence for social distancing in our COVID-19 Evidence Service. Here we take a closer look at the evidence for mass gatherings and sporting events and their impact on health and infectious disease in particular. What is a mass gathering? The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes a mass gathering as “a planned or spontaneous event where the number of people attending could strain the planning and response resources of the community or country hosting the event.” The Olympic Games, The Hajj, and other major sporting, religious, and cultural events are all examples of a mass gathering. What countries have restricted or banned mass gatherings due to COVID-19? Table 1 provides a list of restrictions on mass gatherings and sporting events for selected countries (as of 17 March). It is clear that countries have varied in their approaches and timing of their adoption around mass gatherings and sporting events. Organisations responsible for mass events and sporting bodies have also taken decisions to either ban or postpone events even when government advice was advisory or absent (voluntary event cancellation [VEC]); including the London Marathon, national soccer leagues and international tournaments, Formula 1, The Six Nations, World Tennis Association/Association of Tennis Professionals, Glastonbury festival and numerous national and local sporting, cultural and religious events. At the time of writing there has been no decision as to postponing the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.