Christmas coming!: Events start popping up but COVID-19 still here

BY: Gifty Owusu-Amoah
Some patrons at an event
Some patrons at an event

There is no doubt that the arts and entertainment industry has become one of the most affected industries since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

The plight of the creative industry was further deepened when the government placed restrictions on social gatherings in April last year to curtail the spread of the virus.

The restraint, was however, not a pleasant news for event organisers, vendors, performers and their respective handlers who bore the brunt of the directive, as everything slowly ground to a halt.

With Christmas being a “cash cow” for the creatives and stakeholders in event management especially, it was such a great relief to provide leisure and make money when the President eased restrictions on social events and gatherings.

Notable events such as Rapperholic, 24th Night with Kojo Antwi and Citi FM’s “Cituation” outdoor party at the Apollo grounds in Airport, undoubtedly created very exciting moments for patrons.

Many large gatherings and events, where the “chilling atmosphere” perhaps clouds the sense of safety of patrons in observing the COVID-19 protocol at such events to curtail the spread of the deadly virus, will feature prominently during the upcoming Christmas festive season.

It is rather unfortunate that while the Ghana Health Service and medical practitioners warn citizens of the deadly Delta strain of the coronavirus, people give little attention and continue to flout the protocol at social events.

The advocacy to observe the compulsory protocol has become necessary, considering the fact that the surge in cases and related deaths reported in the first two months of 2021 is evidence that the mass flouting of the COVID-19 code of behaviour at social gatherings, including parties and concerts in December, 2020, was a major setback in the fight against the pandemic.

As Christmas approaches and people set themselves up for pleasurable times at public and private events, we must also not lose sight of the fact that COVID-19 is still very much alive and we have to adhere to the safety protocol to prevent a resurgence of cases in the country as happened early this year.

Events

The team leader at Image Bureau, an event and publicity company, Mr George Quaye, acknowledges that COVID- 19 has affected how event organisers admit the number of patrons to an event.

According to him, the biggest challenge for event planners and organisers in Ghana includes getting the right venues to accommodate many patrons, while observing social distance.

“Also, ensuring that patrons adhere to all the necessary COVID-19 protocols while organisers break even in the cost of production as well,” he said.

He pointed out that no event organiser hopes to incur losses but the quest to make money should never override the supreme interest of protecting the lives of patrons and to a larger extent, the general public.

“We are definitely not in normal times as we are all witnesses to the changes this pandemic has brought upon us. Yes, Christmas is coming and already, a number of events have started popping up.

“With entertainment shows being part of social gathering and listed as one of the sources and major contributors to the spread of the virus, it is important that event organisers and planners ensure that venues are at half capacity to obey the social distance rule effectively.

“Next would be the strict adherence to the mask wearing protocol. It won’t be easy but event planners must constantly insist patrons have their masks on. Events must have intermittent breaks where patrons are reminded through audio visuals.

“Much as possible, event planners should try to hold more outdoor shows as compared to the compact indoor venues. These times also make it important that there’s an ambulance at every event.

“Not forgetting the usual temperature checking and sanitiser protocol. We must try hard to follow these religiously,” he said.

COVID-19 cases

As of Wednesday, September 15, 2021, no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were registered in Ghana, with a total of 1,098 casualties and 122,776 recoveries in the country. Overall cases reached its highest at 123,874 and the Greater Accra Region was the most affected region. On August 08, 2021, the highest daily increase in cases recorded in Ghana, was 4,760.

Globally, little evidence exists on transmission patterns of COVID-19. Recommendations to prevent infection include appropriate and frequent handwashing plus physical and social distancing.

“With many events being organised and more to come during Christmas, patrons must not ignore preventive measures at public gatherings since that will be a deadly cost and we will definitely pay for it as happened in the first quarter of 2021.

“As an event planner, I’m very committed to lead the light in ensuring that our venues are safe havens and not breeding grounds for the spread of the virus,” he added.

Safety

To the CEO of Event Factory, Nabil Alhassan, the safety and lives of patrons cannot be threatened in the face of covid-19 transmissions.

“Certainly, hosting shows for large numbers of people is particularly challenging at this time. Events taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic must follow the government's guidelines and be COVID-19 secure and that comes at cost.

“However, there’s no cost more expensive than risk assessments and event organisers must ensure through measures such as social distancing and hygiene arrangements to minimise transmission of the virus,” he said.

Comedian Lekzy Decomic, who is headlining an event dubbed, “Too Cute to be Mute” next month pointed out that his team had put in place measures to curtail the spread of virus at the show.

“We cannot take chances since we are not out of the woods yet. So yes, we are cautioning patrons to equally protect their lives by observing the protocols that will be put in place at such events,” he noted.