. What to do if someone tests positive for Covid-19 at your event | Meetings & Conventions Asia

What to do if someone tests positive for Covid-19 at your event

Uncertainty lingers over the question of liability in Malaysia, while Singapore rolls out strict guidelines.

MICE stakeholders in Malaysia remain unsure about liability if a case of Covid-19 is detected on-site, while events in Singapore undergo a strict approval process.
MICE stakeholders in Malaysia remain unsure about liability if a case of Covid-19 is detected on-site, while events in Singapore undergo a strict approval process. Photo Credit:Getty

As live, in-person meetings and events return to parts of Asia, event planners, venues and suppliers are examining new ways of working that adhere to a long list of health and safety requirements to prevent the spread of Covd-19.

In Malaysia, industry stakeholders say they are confident when it comes to implementing hygiene and safe distancing measures, but remain unsure about how to respond if a case of Covid-19 is detected on-site.

At the recent Malaysia Business Events Week (MBEW) 2020, several participants noted that they and their clients were not sure who was liable for testing, hospitalisation, and cancellation costs if a participant were to test positive.

Someone noted that it would be hard to pinpoint when the participant or speaker contracted the disease as they were only at the venue for a certain portion of the time.

Speaking to M&C Asia, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre general manager, Alan Pryor, said the cost of testing, hospitalisation and medical treatment falls under the purview of the individual. He added that the event organiser/venue should immediately advise the Health Ministry of any suspected or confirmed cases.

“The event organiser is responsible for obtaining and recording [movement data] of all attendees while the venue maintains records of all its staff (for contact tracing purposes),” he said.  

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Alan Pyror said the responsibility for payment of Covid-19 testing, hospitalisation and medical treatment falls under the purview of the individual.

Yap Lip Seng, CEO of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) agreed, saying that if there is an on-site detection, hotels follow new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for MICE that include using a quarantine area/room and a designated route to that area, and all hotel guests and employees are evacuated while the property is cleaned and disinfected. According to Yap, government guidelines state that these costs have to be borne by the event organiser and venue.

Pryor, who is also the chairman of the Business Events Council of Malaysia (BECM) and worked with government and the Malaysian Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) to draft SOPs related to Covid-19, believes venues should take the lead in advising clients of their responsibilities and ensure requirements are fully complied with. 

“SOP procedures and relevant liability cover should be communicated to attendees via the event organiser,” he said.

In the case of virus detection, the SOPs also state that venue must be locked-down. Cancellation of an event would incur costs, obviously, and Pryor said this is normally covered under the force majeure clause of venue hire contracts.

Cleaning and sanitisation costs are shared between the organiser and the venue.
Cleaning and sanitisation costs are shared between the organiser and the venue.

BECM, MAH and MyCEB have unanimously appealed to MICE stakeholders to be vigilant, especially since auxiliary police or security officers will likely monitor events.

A Temporary Measures Bill to reduce the impact of Covid-19 passed in Parliament on 25 August will suspend non-performance of contractual obligations due to the pandemic, retrospectively from 18 March to 31 December, 2020. But what of events with contracts outside of these date? 

At  MBEW 2020, Charles Pereira from Pacific & Orient Insurance stated that currently no insurer will provide a new policy that covers Covid-19. So, where does that leave Malaysia's MICE industry?

Sharing responsibility in Singapore

Meanwhile, in Singapore, a long list of enforcement measures have been rolled out to support larger events, which can take place from 1 October. 

However, planners are required to seek approval from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry before hosting an event, and the stringent application process will help to keep stakeholders in check.

For example, the event organiser and the venue must jointly submit an application. This must be done at least one month prior to the intended event date, and the approval process can take up to two weeks.

According to STB, applications must demonstrate readiness and capabilities to implement these five Safe Management Measures (SMMs), where emergency preparedness is high on the list.

This includes developing clear reporting protocols and communication plans to monitor the health of local and foreign attendees before, during and after the event; and providing training for staff to ensure they are able to respond to emergency situations.

Event organisers are required to submit two post-event reports to STB. The first report must be submitted one day after the end of the event, detailing any incident relevant to the SMMs; providing photographic evidence of SMMs being deployed, as well as attendee surveys and feedback. The second report must be submitted 14 days after the end of the event to report on the status of health of all attendees. 

And if someone breaches the SMMs, both the event organiser and event venue are jointly responsible. Enforcement officers will investigate breaches to determine which party is liable, or if both parties are liable. Hefty fines apply — first-time breaches can incur a fine of up to S$10,000 and possible jail time, and event planners who break the rules will not be granted approval for future events.

More information on the SMMs can be found here.