COVID Safe Event Protocol

Current restrictions in force as part of Step 3.2 of Canberra’s Recovery Plan are outlined in the page below.

To find out more check the Changes to Restrictions page.

COVID Safe Events

Events are important to our community; they create jobs, provide entertainment and keep people connected to their community.

However large events, including mass gatherings, present a high risk for COVID-19 transmission.

A new COVID Safe Event Protocol has been developed to assist with returning events to the ACT, and provides guidance to event organisers to ensure that their event is COVID Safe.

All event organisers in the ACT will be required to develop a COVID Safe Event Plan.

COVID Safe Event Protocol

The new COVID Safe Event Protocol will help organisers plan events with more than 200 people and seek the necessary exemption.

All events at public venues—public or private—are encouraged to seek an exemption if more than 200 people are expected.

The protocol provides further information to event organisers on the types of events that will be able to take place in the ACT while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

Event organisers can apply for an exemption to hold a medium-risk event up to 500 people or a high-risk event of 500 to 5,000 people.

Events which involve gatherings of up to 200 people are currently allowed and do not need to seek exemptions, unless they do not comply with the Public Health Directions.

COVID Safe Event Protocol - Guides event organisers through and outlines information about the exemption process.

Industry factsheet - Organising an Event - Key information to help plan an event in the ACT.

How to seek an exemption

To apply for an exemption for your upcoming event, please use this online form. Schools planning end of year events should refer to End of Year School Events below.

COVID Safe Event Plan

To help mitigate the risk, all event organisers in the ACT must have a COVID Safe Event Plan.

The COVID Safe Event Plan must be in writing and produced on request by compliance and enforcement officers.

The ACT Government does not require the use of a standard template for event organisers to use in developing their COVID Safe Event Plan. The plan must be able to be produced on request by a compliance or enforcement officer.

Your COVID Safe Event Plan must also be submitted with your exemption application for more than 200 people.

End of Year School Events

Guidance for schools for planning end of year events, including for formals and graduation ceremonies, has been provided to the ACT Education sector.

Further information on school arrangements for Term 4, including end of year events, can be found on the Education Directorate website.

Contact

For more information contact covidexemptions.events@act.gov.au

Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is a COVID Safe Event Plan?

The development of a COVID Safe Event Plan is an important step in ensuring that event planners keep staff and the broader community safe. It is the responsibility of the event organiser to hold a COVID Safe Event Plan, not the operator of the event venue.

A COVID Safe Event Plan is a written document that details how you will comply with Public Health Directions and guidelines and outline any risk mitigation measures you will put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The ACT Government does not require the use of a standard template for event organisers to use in developing their COVID Safe Event Plan, but it must be able to be produced on request by a compliance or enforcement officer. Your COVID Safe Event Plan must also be submitted with your exemption application for more than 200 people.

The COVID Safe Event Protocol contains specific considerations for the development of a COVID Safe Event Plan.

Where can I find the COVID Safe Event Protocol?

The COVID Safe Event Protocol is available for download here.

What is a Risk Management Plan?

A Risk Management Plan is required for any Class C (high risk) events of more than 500 people and should be an annexure of your COVID Safe Event Plan. It should consider:

  • identification of possible risks;
  • rating of each risk using a tool such as the WHO risk assessment and mitigation checklist;
  • actions to be taken to minimise or reduce identified risks;
  • resources which can be utilised to assist in minimising or reducing identified risks; and
  • planning for ongoing review of risks to ensure that these remain relevant.

Exemptions

How do I apply for an exemption?

You can apply for an exemption for your event using this online form.

You can submit your application for exemption from the Chief Health Officer at the same time as seeking other relevant approvals from other regulatory bodies.

How long will my exemption take to get assessed?

You should ensure your application for an exemption has all the required paperwork filled in correctly before applying for an exemption to ensure it can be considered quickly.

If your event is relatively straight forward or classified as a Class B (medium risk) event, you can expect a response in around 5 to 10 working days.

If your event is a complex Class C (high risk) event, it may require a lengthy assessment and discussion/liaison process with the event organisers involved. For this reason, we recommend large event exemption applications are lodged well before the date of the event, ideally two months prior.

How long before my event do I need to seek an exemption?

Event organisers who are seeking an exemption should ensure their COVID Safe Event Plan is submitted at least three full weeks prior to the event, and ideally up to two months prior.

Applications will not be considered for events that are scheduled to take place within two weeks of the date of application.

Who assesses my exemption?

Class B (medium risk) events will be assessed by the Office of the Chief Health Officer, which will make a recommendation to the Chief Health Officer.

Class C (high risk) events will be assessed by the Event Assessment Committee, which will make a recommendation to the Chief Health Officer.

Please note that Class B events may be considered by the Event Assessment Committee, if referred by the Office of the Chief Health Officer due to complexity or level of risk of the event.

Can I appeal or seek a review if I don’t get granted an exemption?

If you are not granted an exemption for your event, you will be provided with a reason for the decision. Review or reassessment provisions will be outlined in correspondence provided to you.

Some events cannot be granted an exemption at this time as they are deemed to be very high risk. These events include music festivals, food festivals, schoolies graduation events, carnivals, some community sport events and other unticketed spectator events.

Event organisers are encouraged to read the COVID Safe Event Protocol before lodging an application to check whether their event and their event plan meets current requirements and expectations in regard to COVID-19 risk.

Can I make changes, such as to the date of my event once I get an exemption?

Should you wish to change the details of your event after an exemption is permitted, you will need to seek permission from the Office of the Chief Health Officer.

Email: covidexemptions.events@act.gov.au

What would need to change for my exemption to be withdrawn?

Large events are considered high risk, so event organisers should be mindful of the changing nature of COVID-19 in all jurisdictions. If the COVID-19 situation in the ACT worsens, your event may need to be revisited or postponed, even if an exemption has already been granted. This could be due to:

  • an increase in COVID-19 case numbers in the ACT;
  • COVID-19 community transmission occurring in the ACT;
  • concerns or issues from other large events that have been held in the ACT; and/or
  • the situation in other jurisdictions.

Public health and peoples’ safety are the ACT Government’s priority. The COVID-19 situation remains unpredictable, therefore event organisers are encouraged to factor this into their event planning.

If your exemption needs to be withdrawn, you will be contacted by the Office of the Chief Health Officer.

Which events or activities are excluded from receiving an exemption?

Events with less than 200 people attending and private events at private properties do not need to seek an exemption. However you should be aware of the Public Health Directions as they relate to non-essential gatherings, and be sensible if you are having people at your home by putting in place control measures such as being aware of who is attending and how they could be contacted should there be a need for contact tracing.

Exemptions may not required for some types of ticketed events. See the COVID Safe Event Protocol for more information.

All events, public or private, at public venues, must seek an exemption if more than 200 people are expected.

What happens if I don’t get an exemption in time or my exemption is denied? Can I still go ahead with my event

You should not hold an event in a public space with more than 200 people without an exemption, as penalties may apply. An exemption is required for events of more than 200 people.

Event organisers are requested to lodge their event exemption application as early as possible to ensure an approval is in place before holding the event to avoid any possible penalties. Event organisers are encouraged to read the COVID Safe Event Protocol.

Which events or activities are excluded from receiving an exemption?

Events with less than 100 people attending and private events at private properties do not need to seek an exemption. However you should be aware of the Public Health Directions as they relate to non-essential gatherings, and be sensible if you are having people at your home by putting in place control measures such as being aware of who is attending and how they could be contacted should there be a need for contact tracing.

All events, public or private, at public venues, must seek an exemption if more than 100 people are expected.

Planning your event

Can I stage an event over a few days, such as a festival?

Multi-day events, such as festivals, are particularly high risk due to larger volumes of people being in the same area over a significantly longer period of time.

Multi-day events (with the same participants) are unlikely to be permitted due to the risks involved and are unlikely to be considered for an exemption at this time.

What is meant by a ‘scalable’ event?

COVID-19 is unpredictable and event organisers should be mindful of the changing nature of COVID‑19 in all jurisdictions.

There could be a chance that prior to your event, the Public Health Directions change, either allowing you to have more or less people at your event. You should consider how this would impact your event, and whether you can easily upscale or downscale your event to adhere to new restrictions.

If you do wish to make any changes to event numbers, you must contact the ACT Government.

Email: covidexemptions.events@act.gov.au

What happens if restrictions change (ease or tighten) before my event?

There could be a chance that prior to your event, the Public Health Directions change, either allowing you to have more or less people at your event. You should consider how this would impact your event, and whether you can easily upscale or downscale your event to adhere to new restrictions.

If there is a need to tighten restrictions, there is a risk your event will be reassessed, and your exemption withdrawn.

If your exemption needs to be withdrawn, you will be contacted by the Office of the Chief Health Officer.

Can I hold an event on public land?

You can hold an event on public land however you are encouraged to seek an exemption before applying to the land manager if required.

For land managed by Transport Canberra and City Services, email: TCCS.PublicLandUse@act.gov.au

For land managed by the National Capital Authority, email: NCA.Events@nca.gov.au

Event numbers

Can I hold an event for more than 200 people?

Current Public Health Directions in the ACT limit the majority of gatherings to 200 people. Organised sporting activities are permitted to have 100 spectators, which excludes participants and staff.

A formalised exemptions process has been established to allow event organisers to submit applications to host events which fall outside of the current public gathering requirements, such as events for more than 200 people.

Can I stagger my event (e.g. morning and afternoon sessions) to maximise the number of people that can be present?

It is possible to stagger events to permit for more people to attend, but you must comply with any conditions included in your exemption.

Multiple sessions (with different participants attending) can be held throughout a day, but there must be sufficient spacing between sessions to ensure that participants do not come together, and to allow a thorough cleaning of the venue between sessions.

If multiple sessions are to be held, event organisers should consider a lesser number of participants for each session.

Why are football games allowed to have more than 5,000 spectators but other events can’t?

Where seated venues (i.e. stadiums) have the capacity to hold numbers significantly higher than 5,000 people, consideration can be given to a capacity of no more than 50%.

The Chief Health Officer carefully considered the recent trial events conducted over many weeks at GIO Stadium. Spectators were trialled at 1,500 and 3,000 capacities providing an opportunity to assess and review processes. The Chief Health Officer was subsequently satisfied that a further increase to the spectator capacity could be achieved in a COVID Safe way.

Exemption requests for future events to be held at seated venues will be considered in line with the public health situation at the time, as well as taking into consideration learnings taken from each event that has already taken place.

It should be noted that outdoor venues, such as GIO stadium, provide a lower COVID risk than indoor venues.

Are staff, crew, volunteers or contractors included in the number of people i can have?

The maximum number of attendees you can have at your event should exclude any staff, crew, volunteers or contractors.

Attendees

Can people come to my event from interstate?

People from interstate can travel to the ACT for events, however anyone (other than ACT residents) travelling into the ACT from Victoria will be denied entry to the ACT unless they have an exemption from ACT Health.

We strongly discourage anyone form COVID-affected areas from travelling to the ACT.

You can find the latest travel advice for people travelling in and out of the ACT on the ACT COVID-19 Website Travel Advice page.

Can people come to my event if they are from a ‘hotspot’?

We strongly discourage anyone from COVID-affected areas from travelling to the ACT.

Under a Public Health Direction, anyone (other than ACT residents) travelling into the ACT from Victoria will be denied entry to the ACT unless they are granted an exemption by ACT Health.

You can find the latest travel advice for people travelling in and out of the ACT on the ACT COVID-19 Website Travel Advice page.

Do I need to get attendees’ contact details?

Event organisers or venues are required to ask attendees and staff for their name and phone number and record it along with the date and time they attended the venue for the purpose of contact tracing. Details can be securely destroyed after 28 days.

The ACT Government has developed the Check In CBR app to provide a contactless, secure and convenient way for patrons to sign into a Canberra venue.

Consider if the Check In CBR app can be used for your event. Find out more on the ACT COVID-19 Website Check In CBR page.

Do people at my event have to be seated to eat or drink?

The management of attendees is a key consideration for your COVID Safe Event Plan.

Attendees should remain seated if alcohol is served, even at a private function. You should ensure that all requirements contained in the Public Health Directions relating to service of alcohol are followed.

Do I have to ensure there is one person per 4 square metres at my event?

Smaller sized venues can have a maximum of 25 people (excluding staff) across the whole venue.

Medium-sized hospitality venues with total usable space between 101 and 200 square metres can have 50 people throughout the venue (excluding staff). If they wish to have more than 50 people they can calculate their capacity based on the one person per 4 square metres of usable indoor space and one person per 2 square metres of useable outdoor space rules.

For larger events, event organisers will need to carefully consider crowd density as part of the development of their COVID Safe Event Plan. Whether the event is indoors or outdoors, consider how many people can safely attend based on the one person per 4 square metre rule (indoors) or one person per 2 square metre rule (outdoors).

You must ensure density limits can be maintained across the event site at all times, and that physical distancing requirements (1.5 metres) can be maintained where possible and as much as possible.

Specific events

Can I seek an exemption so I can have more than 200 people at my wedding?

It is strongly encouraged that private events comply with the gathering restrictions contained in the Public Health Directions.

However, where there are exceptional circumstances, private events such as weddings and private parties, can seek an exemption if more than 200 people are planned to be in attendance. All relevant documentation as outlined in the COVID Safe Event Protocol must be submitted for assessment and consideration for private events also, if they are being held at a public venue.

Event organisers should note that due to a larger gathering size, additional public health measures may be required to be implemented for private events granted an exemption. These will be advised during the decision process.

Can I seek an exemption for a protest?

Any organised events must seek an exemption if more than 200 people are expected. All relevant documentation as outlined in the COVID Safe Event Protocol must be submitted for assessment and consideration for private events also.

Can I seek an exemption for an end-of-year school event?

The Chief Health Officer has indicated that end-of-year school events may go ahead, on the proviso that they operate in accordance with guidance material provided to all schools across Canberra.

The Public Health Direction has been modified to enable certain end of year events to take place on school grounds, if schools so wish. These events include school formals, graduation ceremonies and end-of-year assemblies.

Further information on school arrangements for 4, including end of year events, can be found on the Education Directorate website.

Can I seek an exemption for another private event such as a birthday party or a work Christmas party?

It is strongly encouraged that private events comply with the gathering restrictions contained in the Public Health Directions.

However, where there are exceptional circumstances, private events such as weddings and private parties, can seek an exemption if more than 200 people are planned to be in attendance. All relevant documentation as outlined in the COVID Safe Event Protocol must be submitted for assessment and consideration for private events also, if they are being held at a public venue.

Event organisers should note that due to a larger gathering size, additional public health measures may be required to be implemented for private events granted an exemption. These will be advised during the decision process.

Can I seek an exemption for a business conference?

Yes. Event organisers should refer to the COVID Safe Event Protocol.

Can university graduations go ahead through the COVID Safe Event Protocol or are they considered an end-of-year school event?

Universities must seek an exemption through the COVID Safe Event Protocol process if more than 200 people are expected. All relevant documentation as outlined in the COVID Safe Event Protocol must be submitted for assessment and consideration for university events.

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: October 09 2020