Current position with regard COVID-19 and implications for parkrun events

By Russ Jefferys, Global Head of Communications
— Thursday 12 March 2020

Please see below for the latest update from parkrun Global.

We are updating this page regularly and acting where necessary on advice from the World Health Organisation, national governments and medical professionals.

For further information relating to the COVID-19 infection please see the World Health Organisation’s published FAQs

The current situation for parkrun events around the world is detailed below.

*** UPDATE - 15.15 GMT Tuesday 7 April 2020 ***

It’s been four weeks since we first closed parkrun events due to COVID-19, and we’d like to take this opportunity to explain a little about our organisational structure and how we will be approaching the challenge of supporting our communities whilst their events are suspended.

parkrun Global is a UK-based charity with ultimate responsibility for all parkrun events around the world. Over the last five years we have developed our organisational structure such that all parkrun staff (currently that number is 43) work closely together wherever they are based, and as much is centralised as possible. This allows for scalable solutions to be developed, and for younger parkrun territories to benefit from the years of experience gained across older parkrun territories.

Clearly, parkrun would also not be possible without an incredible number of volunteers doing amazing things. As such, supporting the 43 staff, there are around 650 volunteer ambassadors (people who volunteer for parkrun outside of actually delivering events), approximately 2,300 event directors (the people responsible for each individual event itself), and half-a-million different people providing the volunteer roles you see in our parks and open spaces every Saturday or Sunday morning. During normal parkrun operations, those volunteers give around 50,000 hours per week to the parkrun family.

On behalf of the entire parkrun family, I’d like to say a massive thank you to parkrun volunteers across the world. You have been nothing short of incredible during this unprecedented challenge.
While we are working hard to develop our processes for reopening events whenever appropriate, our current efforts are largely focused on supporting our Ambassadors and event teams around the world whilst events are closed.

As part of that support process, over the next few weeks, members of staff will be contacting all ambassadors and event teams, directly and individually, in order to best understand the challenges they are facing, and to provide support where needed.

Decisions to open any parkrun events, in any territory in the future will be made centrally by the parkrun Global team, based on medical, scientific advice, and operational factors including impact on volunteers and event teams. Further detail on this will be shared in future updates.
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding.

We will get through this, together.

*** UPDATE - 15.50 GMT Tuesday 31 March 2020 ***

Update from parkrun Global Chief Operating Officer, Tom Williams

We feel it is important to keep everyone regularly updated throughout this situation, particularly as we wish to reassure you that we remain committed during this time to deliver on our mission to create a healthier, happier planet. We’d also like you to know that we’ll be ready to hit the ground running (and walking, jogging, or volunteering) at the earliest appropriate time, and outline over time what we are doing to ensure that happens.

We'd like to sincerely thank our sponsors, supporters, partners and other stakeholders around the world. These are unprecedented times for everyone and we continue to be moved by the outpouring of support shown towards the parkrun family. Thank you.

Our communications and health & wellbeing teams are working hard to lift spirits and provide support to those impacted by this enforced period of social isolation. The Great Big parkrun Quiz has engaged thousands of people around the world and The School of parkrun is our attempt to provide a little parkrun-flavoured content for those of us home-schooling our children. Over the coming weeks and months we will further develop our communications to better support parkrunners around the world, and please know that we are committed to being there throughout.

Additionally, our operations team is working harder than ever in order to ensure that everything is ready to re-launch, when the time comes. With staff located around the world, we are, for example, considering areas such as risk assessments, insurance documents, safeguarding checks, and landowner permissions. All of which will need to be in place, and up-to-date, before our events can re-open, and with more than 2,000 events around the world potentially closed for many months, it’s critical that we don’t build-up a backlog of tasks to do before we go live.

Finally, as part of our commitment to communicating with the parkrun community during the social restrictions faced around the world, we will be publishing further updates here every Tuesday.

Thanks for all your support during this time.



Tom

*** UPDATE - 16.40 GMT Tuesday 24 March 2020 ***

Update from parkrun Global Chief Operating Officer, Tom Williams

Today’s update is to notify you that all parkrun events will now continue to be suspended until at least the end of April. This is in order to keep all parkrun countries following the same timeline for the moment, although we do expect suspensions to go beyond April.

Since deciding to close our events we have been working incredibly hard to action that decision, understand the implications of making it, and provide immediate support to parkrun communities around the world. And, with all events suspended, we are now able to begin work developing our strategy for supporting our communities during this difficult time and, one day, re-launching.

Going forward we will be publishing a global parkrun update every Tuesday (UK time), here.

We will get through this, together.

*** UPDATE - 08.40 GMT Wednesday 18 March 2020 ***

Following government advice and public health guidelines, we are suspending events in Eswatini, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, and the UK from this weekend until at least the end of March.

With this announcement parkrun is now closed in every territory around the world until further notice.

Cancelled until at least the end of March:
Australia
Canada
Denmark
Eswatini
Finland
France
Germany
Republic of Ireland
Italy
Japan
Malaysia
Namibia
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Poland
Russia
Singapore
South Africa
Sweden
UK
USA

 

*** UPDATE - 20.00 GMT Tuesday 17 March 2020 ***

Following government advice and public health guidelines, we are suspending events in Australia and New Zealand from this weekend until at least the end of March.

Cancelled until at least the end of March:
Australia
Canada
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Republic of Ireland
Italy
Japan
Malaysia
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Poland
Singapore
Sweden
USA

 

*** UPDATE - 10.45 GMT Monday 16 March 2020 ***

Update from parkrun Global Chief Operating Officer, Tom Williams

Firstly we’d like to thank everyone in the 15 countries where, last week, we took the decision to close all events, and who universally supported our actions. For so many of us, parkrun is the constant in an otherwise unpredictable week, where we can spend time with friends and family, enjoying the great outdoors. To have that taken away can be incredibly challenging, so please know we are thinking of you all, and already working on ways we can support you until your events return.

In the seven countries where parkruns did take place, perhaps unsurprisingly our social media channels were filled with stories of people, from all backgrounds and of all abilities, using parkrun to escape momentarily from what for many of us is proving a difficult time.

Will there be further event closures?

I’m sure that, like us, you are closely following the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic and would therefore like to know if there will be any further event closures over the coming weeks.

In the last few days, public health guidance has been updated in many countries and as such we are likely to close more parkrun countries. However, whilst we know how important it is that we update you as soon as possible, we must also take the time required to allow governments to develop their own positions fully, and then for us to understand as many of the facts as possible.

Importantly, our overriding principle for event closures remain that we will close our events wherever official public health guidance recommends or requires. We do also understand that public health guidance can vary greatly by country, and that in itself is causing concern, in turn we may therefore close events even where not recommended or required.

There are, however, a number of potential downsides to closing parkrun events, and we are taking these all into consideration. Specifically in the UK, the Chief Medical Officer has emphasised the importance of timing when it comes to various social distancing strategies, and that going too soon may do more harm than good. Also, it may be that the damage caused by the removal of parkrun as a coping and support mechanism from a community, may outweigh any increased risk of infection due to participation in a parkrun event.

We will therefore be spending the early part of this week consulting with public health experts and speaking directly with national-level senior public health leaders, and we will then make our own decisions as to where our events should close and where they should stay open. Importantly, as has been our commitment from the start, we will close our events wherever official public health guidance recommends or requires.

We will communicate further information re closures to you by the end of Wednesday this week (UK time).

Finally, I’d personally like to thank everyone who’s put their faith and trust in our staff and volunteers. We are all committed to doing the right thing and fully understand the incredible responsibility we have in guiding parkrun through this challenge.

Please stay positive, be there for each other, and know that the parkrun family is with you.

Tom Williams
Chief Operating Officer
parkrun Global

 

*** UPDATE - 08.00 GMT Friday 13 March 2020 ***

Cancelled up to the end of March:

Canada
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Republic of Ireland
Italy
Japan
Malaysia
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Singapore
Sweden

USA


*** UPDATE - 14.19 GMT Thursday 12 March 2020 ***

An update on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and implications for parkrun events from parkrun Global COO Tom Williams

Whilst this is a fast-changing global challenge, we feel it important to provide you with an increased level of clarity so that you can best understand implications for the delivery of parkrun events.

Internally we have established two globally-representative working groups (composed of senior parkrun staff, key volunteers, and medical doctors) who are in continual daily contact and are respectively addressing the strategic and operational implications of COVID-19 on our communities around the world.

Our current overall strategic position is that where specifically recommended or required by health organisations, governments, or landowners, we will close events. This includes where our events may not quite reach the full criteria, such as where gatherings of over 1,000 people are banned; in this situation we will cancel all events in that region regardless of event size.

We also request that events themselves do not cancel due to COVID-19 in the absence of a central instruction from us. This is because we believe doing so may overwhelm other nearby teams with an influx of participants, and increase the amount of travel as parkrunners simply attend other events. Importantly, anyone who would prefer to not volunteer at parkrun events during this time should feel comfortable and supported in their decision.

At the time of writing a number of parkrun events are closed around the world. Where we impose large-scale cancellations across parkrun regions we will directly contact all registered participants in that region, notifying them of the closure.

We believe that during challenging times it is more important than ever that communities are able to come together socially and support each other if appropriate and safe.

Whether or not to close all events within a specific country is a decision we take having discussed the situation at length and in great detail, internally and with external experts.

Where we take the decision to keep events open, we do so in the belief that in the absence of other restrictions such as closed schools and other public facilities, parkrun events present a level of risk of infection that is not significantly greater than going about regular daily life.

Where events remain open, we are not advising any changes at this time to standard event delivery processes (described in the Volunteer Hub), and events should not be providing specific guidance to participants.

Finally, we would ask you all to be vigilant, to refrain from volunteering if you have flu-like symptoms, and to be mindful of the more vulnerable members of your communities.

We continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis, and will provide further updates here as and when appropriate.

Tom Williams
Chief Operating Officer
parkrun Global

 

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