With the Covid pandemic still causing havoc in various countries, and the threat of a third wave hanging over the world, hosting a mega event such as the Expo 2020 Dubai is a major challenge indeed.
The global fair is expected to draw 25 million visits during its six-month run starting October 1, and health safety is the biggest concern for visitors and participants.
Putting all concerns to rest, the team at Expo 2020 has revealed the extensive Covid preparedness and strict health and safety guidelines to ensure the event will be one of the safest.
From crowd patrolling Robots that ensure social distancing to AI-assisted queue controlling and isolation rooms to roving paramedics, hand sanitising stations and emergency aid clinics at the site, Expo 2020 team has gone above and beyond to offer visitors a safe experience, said Rob Cooling, Expo’s vice-president of health, safety, quality and environment.
“There is a massive amount of excitement that is starting to build now. But with that comes a huge responsibility to deliver a safe and responsible event. And there is a significant commitment to do that,” Cooling told Khaleej Times.
He said the UAE is ready to host the Expo and has led the way in dealing with the pandemic with the highest vaccination rate in the world.
“At Expo, we have developed a comprehensive set of guidelines that we worked very closely with all of the key government authorities, like the Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Police etc,” he said.
Steps are taken to protect the visitors, workforce, volunteers, staff, contractors, service providers and also the international participants who are coming.
“The guidelines are based on very sound public health practices, which are now tried and tested around the world,” said Cooling.
“The health, safety and well-being of everyone visiting and working at Expo 2020 Dubai is our number one priority and we continue to monitor the local and global situation — and our measures will continue to evolve in line with the latest UAE Government guidance,” he added.
Following are the raft of measures in place to ensure a safe visitor experience at Expo 2020:
Vaccination and PCR tests not mandatory
While vaccination is encouraged, visitors to Expo are not required to provide proof of immunisation or take a PCR test ahead of entry. The precautionary measures are in line with guidance from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and the latest information and advice from the World Health Organisation, said Cooling. However, all Expo staff, including contractors, suppliers, volunteers and pavilion participants must be vaccinated.
No temperature scanning
Cooling said there won’t be temperature scanning of visitors before entering the Expo site. “Under current guidance from Mohap and the DHA, there will not be temperature screening of visitors or workforce entering the secure site.
Rapid Covid testing available at Expo site
The official said they are setting up a comprehensive testing infrastructure on the site and that will be predominantly for the staff. Though there will not be PCR tests available onsite for visitors, specialised medical facilities, including provisions for rapid Covid testing will be available. “We will continue to update our requirements and guidance to visitors as the situation changes,” he added.
Two-metre social distancing
Across the site, especially in places where people are likely to congregate, there will be markings on the floor to ensure social distancing and seating arrangements and design of queues are also done accordingly. The pre-booking of tickets, online ticket purchases and cashless retail and F&B purchases are also encouraged to control capacity and visitor flow. Designated staff will be responsible for monitoring and regulating social distancing in all venues.
Robots to patrol crowds
Cooling said Expo 2020 will put to use applied technology, including robots and wearable technology, to assist with visitor-facing interactions such as ticketing, queue management, crowd flow, and capacity and health monitoring. A total of 150 robots will be deployed across the site to enhance visitor experience and to patrol the crowd and enforce rules. He said visitors will be surprised to see the range of technology that is showcased across the site for crowd controlling.
Smart Queuing System
Cooling said the system will help ease waiting time by helping people to book online and reserve a time slot for their visit to a venue. “It’s similar to the ‘fast pass’ idea at a theme park,” said Cooling. If a visitor wants to go to a country pavilion, they can get a time slot reserved and it is a very efficient mechanism to manage the crowd. Every guest who purchases a ticket for Expo 2020 will be entitled to one free Smart Queue pass to visit one of the participating pavilions, which visitors can select through the official Expo 2020 Dubai website. On-site, guests will be able to register online to book additional Smart Queue passes for other pavilions.
Dedicated isolation rooms have been placed around the Expo site for anyone who begins to feel unwell. People will be directed to one of those rooms for an assessment, which includes provisions for rapid Covid testing.
24/7 specialised aid centres
Cooling said the Expo site will also have a dedicated emergency aid centre operated 24/7 by the DHA. In addition to the isolation rooms, testing infrastructure, there will also be a hospital on site.
Further on-site measures include the installation of sanitisation stations, with Dettol, Expo’s Official Hygiene Partner, providing no-touch hand-sanitiser stations at all entrance and departure gates, pavilions and restaurants. Face masks are mandatory and stringent social-distancing regulations are in place, as well as increased deep cleaning.
Beyond the Covid preparedness, Cooling said a world-class medical infrastructure is in place to deal with any other health or medical emergencies including a permanent ambulance station and roving paramedics across the site.