Disinfecting venues for closed door events


COVID-19 has ravaged the whole world and it is far from clear how long it will last. The pandemic has, in fact, forced us to change our perspective of how to cope in a post-viral world. This also counts in respect of hosting events in a COVID-19 world.

There are several organizations who are doing their part to make the world a more safe and hygienic place to live in. One of them is UK-headquartered CleanEvent Services from United Kingdom. It specializes in providing cleaning and other softs services for sports, leisure, entertainment, and retail venues. The CleanMedicare Division offers a diverse range of services to the healthcare sector.

Along with the world, the situation is grim in UK too with the island nation overtaking Italy in terms of coronavirus deaths.

Tomas Gronager, CEO, CleanEvent Services, UK, gives ‘Coliseum’ an exclusive insight into how to hold closed door matches (without fans) in terms of testing and disinfecting during COVID-19 times.

CleanEvent Services, UK, is a member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance and is also one of the sponsors of Coliseum Summit Europe to be held at Ascot Racecourse in UK, on September 2-3, 2020.

It must be a very busy time for all of you. What is the scenario for holding games behind closed doors during the coronavirus situation? Remarked Tomas, “We are busy and it is a weird thing because we are doing quite a lot of work for the health service you know. We do a number of hospitals, and that is keeping us on our toes. There have been talks of some of the venues starting up again, behind closed doors and how do we do that. It’s called a ‘Bio Secure Green Zone’ which becomes the venue itself. Then you have the amber zone, outside the venue, and then we have ranging for how do we divide the staff, how do we mobilize the whole process of getting the staff tested 48 hours prior and then they need to get the results following which they will have to bring the results into the amber zone. In the amber zone, we will take their temperature, and if they are okay, they can go in and work.”

Tomas made it clear, “They will have to work in small groups because if anything happens inside we will have to send that whole team away to self-isolate. Also, if anybody’s coming in shared transport, because we also have a lot of husband and wives working, they can’t come in the same car because if one car is let in, the other car go home so that they can’t hang about in the amber zone. So, it’s quite an interesting challenge.”

Do you think it is realistic to start closed door events because to keep everybody safe is a tremendous amount of effort? “Yes. I think we will definitely have games behind closed doors because there is a lot of broadcasting revenue for instance in football world. There is also a lot of betting revenue in the horse racing world and I think it will be good to get events started behind closed doors. I think things have to start again and things have to start gradually. While we find out how to go about it, once we hold events with spectators, till then closed door events should start. People must get used to maintaining safe social distancing.

Tomas informed, “We now have the COVID-19 test that gives the results within 20 minutes. So, closed door events could be held once we get together the players, and the media into the green zone which is a completely locked off area. It doesn’t matter what kind of accreditation you have, one won’t be able to come in unless one has the pass for that zone and you could, if feasible, do another test on them and know within 20 minutes or 30 minutes whether any of those people are carriers.”

How many people we are talking about if we speak about Premier League game? “I think Premier League game is people going into the green zone. I think it will be somewhere between 250 and 300 people. It is my view. As far as horseracing is considered, on which we are working on, I think that will be about 500 people. Because, a lot more people are involved in horse racing. For five to seven horse races, there are different people who bring in the horses, and trainers. Also, a lot more space is taken up, because everybody has to maintain social distancing. Also, the orange zone – the kind of area where you get all the supplies in, where you get all the people in, and you really look at it before people enter the green zone. For events like horse racing, it is a lot easier, because there is generally more space involved.”

He further noted, “If you consider the City Centre in UK where you have the big football stadium, it’s a bigger challenge. Obviously, it’s also half the people. It’s also what do you do with supplies. If you have supplies coming in to the amber zone, that provider who comes with the supplies on the truck, the truck driver needs to stay in his truck, we need to have people who will unload the stuff and then there will be other people who will come and take it into the green zone. Depending on what kind of supplies it is, it will have to be disinfected.”

So, let’s assume the horse race will start at 4 pm, so the whole process will have to start at 8 in the morning until everybody is cleared to go in? “Definitely. And obviously, in the UK, in general, our first horse race event starts normally at about 12:30, 1:30 in the afternoon. So, I think from our point of view, when we look at how we do it, we have a number of night shifts the day before. So, what we will do is, we will do a deep clean which is really in three main processes – one is normal deep clean which we used to do before COVID-19, then we will disinfect the whole site for which we will use a spray and there is machinery for it, then we will go in and put a virus shield on it, a special chemical which will work on surfaces and touchpoints for up to 30 days and will protect against COVID-19 and any other virus that might sit on a door handle, on a table top, on a cake plate, on a glass, whatever.”

To drive home his point, Tomas stated, “So, that night shift, the night before, we would only expect the cleaners to be on site. In this way, we get the whole site within the green zone and I would also say within the amber zone and completely disinfected and protected with a shield. And, during the horse racing day, we will have small teams on site looking after different areas which is really about maintaining cleanliness, maintaining hygiene, you know touch areas, areas of frequent touch, catering facilities, media facilities, players facilities, or jockeys’ facilities.”

I wanted to ask you that because in the UAE they disinfected and cleaned everything – malls, the streets, metro, the taxis, but, I didn’t hear or see any other country doing all this. Is this really helping, working, protecting? “I think there are two things. One can see on television news people coming in with fog machines and going down the middle of the street. I am not sure. I don’t know. I am not qualified to judge that. But, from what I have read, I am not sure that has got a great effect other than making some great pictures.”

Tomas further pointed out, “Disinfecting, I think, is very important if you have got people moving there, then definitely you need to disinfect. Any virus can stay on hard surfaces for up to three or four days. If you haven’t got any people going through, there is little point. We look after number of shopping centers here in the UK and they are all closed at the moment. So, we just do minimum cleaning there to maintain and to keep the place safe and clean for whatever security and maintenance work that might be carried out. But, obviously, those centers will be completely disinfected before they reopen.”

So, you being from CleanEvent Services, obviously, you have all these measurements, facilities and workforce in place. Are you part of a task force advising the Government how to come back from this pandemic? “We are not. We are quite fortunate that we look after a number of markets, we look after a number of hospitals, so, obviously, pick up a lot of knowhow in the process. The two hospitals that come under our purview is 100 percent dedicated to COVID-19 patients – one is 950 beds and one is 800-plus beds. So, these are our big COVID-19 medical centers and we obviously pick up a lot of knowledge from there. The key thing is you got to keep disinfecting and ensure that it is absolutely clean,” the head honcho asserted.

How your work is different or what did change in the way you approached venues in terms of cleaning and disinfecting before the pandemic and now? “Yeah, I think that before we were very much around the hygiene factor – the guest experience, the visitors’ experience, the fan experience, specifically around stadiums. Now, it is very much about safety of the fans that are coming to enjoy a football match or a horse race and making sure that we can help to provide a safe and secure environment for them. So, that is the key focus at the moment,” said Tomas.

I had a very interesting talk with Mark Fenwick from Spain. He designed three stadiums in Qatar, and Valencia. We discussed about the future – how fans can enter sports venues and he has developed a paper and said – one is of course the social distancing, the personal comfort zone for the people and the other important aspect is the touching of things – elevator knob, door knob, door handle. And, he said, future of using venues and enjoying games there will change dramatically. Basically, he was talking about your business. What do you think will change in the future? Tomas said he think a couple of things will influence that – “it is how we will be able to confront this virus in a medical, scientific way. And, obviously, there is a lot of work being put on to that – for vaccines, for medicines that can treat, that can help and there are some good news about that in the press too. Of course, it is still to be proven. But, I think that we will all learn to keep a distance when we queue up to enter a stadium or go anywhere. That will become our second nature and I think people will work on how can things be more voice-controlled, technology wise and stuff like that.”

He further remarked, “But, there is also a lot of work being put into how you can spray chemicals that will ensure there are no contamination and spreading of viruses. We have chemicals today that we can use – some have got a four-day shelf life, some of the premium ones go up to 30 days and I think there will be a lot more of that kind of spraying, what we call touch areas – be it door handles, lift buttons, control points of all kinds of stuff and this can be sprayed on to electronic stuff as well – it will guard and form a shield against contamination and spreading of viruses.”

At the moment, we are talking about two options – either the ghost games without spectators or the situation where we have a vaccination or a medication. Do you think there is any option in between? Sums up Tomas on a positive note, “Well, there is. Obviously, we have got these sorts of closed games where there will be no fans on site. I think if we could start from enjoying the games on our TVs, and through media. There might be a way in between where we only occupy, like the airlines are talking about, every second seat or people sit in the family groups they are going together. That will obviously reduce the number of spectators at each event which will put pressure on the finances and so forth. For a certain period of time it could continue like that. I am hopeful that we will go back to you know where we were. Some of the diseases that we live with today – 50 or 100 years back too there was really very deadly virus just like the COVID-19 is today. But, we have great faith in our medical science around the world that they will come out with some kind of vaccine cure to it.”

The post-coronavirus world will therefore need safe and clean venues and it is companies like CleanEvent Services who are working through the sweat of their brows to ensure that the hygiene quotient is maintained in sports venues, hospitals and malls so that people are safe, especially when the deadly respiratory disease has the world in its fatal grip.

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