Griffith University mass gathering expert Dr Jamie Ranse is leading the development of Queensland’s framework around how we start holding mass gatherings and events again.

As society tries to regain some element of normality while living with the reality of COVID-19, Dr Ranse and Griffith University’s Mass Gathering Collaboration has been working behind the scenes to help formulate the Queensland Industry Framework for Safe Events.

Dr Ranse, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, said the framework sets out key principles event organisers need to consider when starting to plan events in the time of COVID-19.

Dr Jamie Ranse.

“We know not all events are going to go ahead as they had previously and some which come to mind straight away are like outdoor music festivals where people are normally close, in mosh pits and so forth,” Dr Ranse said.

“This framework gives some parameters and guidelines for people to think about how they can adapt their normal business of events to something that is more COVID safe.

“A music festival might be able to go ahead, but it might just need to take a different look and feel for the spectator.”

Dr Ranse’s expertise lies in the realm of emergency healthcare, primarily in the areas of high visibility, high consequence events that are either planned — such as mass gatherings and major events — or unplanned — like disasters or public health emergencies.

In 2019, Dr Ranse founded the Mass Gathering Collaboration at Griffith University, aiming to strengthen health security and health system resilience globally for mass gatherings, in partnership with communities, government, non-government, industry and academic organisations.

“It is really about ambulance, public health, emergency departments and people with knowledge around health and events coming together,” he said.

“We’ve leveraged the experience of this group of people, which is unique as most other event organisations or associations don’t necessarily have the same focus of health in events.

“People are starting to look up to Griffith University in this space and this is how we came to work on this framework.”

The health researcher said it was important events were able to occur again — whether it be sport, arts, culture or anything else, as they provide enormous social and economic benefits to the community.

Restarting events in a safe way has has positive social and economic events for the community.

“Humans are social beings and events are something that brings people together, often for a common cause,” Dr Ranse said.

“That grows people’s wellbeing from a psychosocial perspective, so there are positive health and community outcomes, and then it drives economic outcomes.

“The flow on effect of hosting events is we have more people in hotels, more people staying in cities longer, eating out at restaurants and maybe going to tourist attractions.

“The framework allows some of that to happen, and while it’s not going to allow all events to happen, it’s going to help people.”

Dr Ranse hoped health would continue to be a priority for future events.

“Often what has been the case in the past, is that health in events takes a back seat, as the focus is often on commercial and economic values… while health services for events are normally considered further down the list, even after security,” he said.

The framework provides guidelines for events like conferences.

“I do think that this will make a stronger relationship between health and events and it will be something that will be at the forefront of people’s thinking as they go forward.

“That’s the silver lining of this cloud.”

Dr Ranse and Griffith University provided input in the framework, which was developed by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council in conjunction with Tourism and Events in Queensland, and the Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation, in collaboration with Queensland Health and industry stakeholders.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Ranse has also provided consultancy to the World Health Organisation Western Pacific Regional Office regarding mass gathering non-pharmalogical interventions and mitigation strategies.