Runners taking part in a parkrun

13 August 2020

Reviewing outdoor transmissions of Covid-19 to support open air events

As lockdown restrictions begin to relax and indoor gyms re-open to their new socially distanced rules and regulations, one of the most popular world-wide outdoor group physical activity events, parkrun, is still paused in many countries.

Starting from a single event with a handful of participants, parkrun now has seven million people registered across 22 countries and 2,100 outdoor locations. However, due to Covid-19, parkrun, like all events, had to suspend its weekly events for the first time in 16 years.

Canterbury Christ Church University’s Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (spear) has been commissioned by parkrun to undertake a rapid review of evidence for outdoor transmission of Covid-19 to help support discussions about when parkrun can re-open events. 

One of the assumptions in the UK recovery plan, and those of many other countries, is that the risk of transmission of the virus is lower outdoors. The review, to be led by Mike Weed, Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise), will seek evidence of incidents of outdoor transmission of Covid-19, including the settings, environment and circumstances of such transmission, as well as comparing the rates of transmission to those occurring indoors.  The purpose of the review is to inform discussions about the re-commencement of outdoor activities generating large or mass gatherings.

Professor Weed said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is both a global health crisis, and a civic emergency for national governments. Many of the activities we took for granted, including mass participation sporting events such as running, have been cancelled. The assumption is generally made that the risk of Covid-19 transmission is lower outdoors, and so by reviewing incidents and examples of outdoor transmission, and the circumstances in which they occur, we aim to be help to support events, such as the popular parkrun, to understand how and when it might be appropriate to re-start their events in a safe way. The review could also help to inform discussions on the re-commencement of activities that generate mass gatherings in other sectors such as concerts, carnivals and festivals.”

Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer of parkun, said: "Outdoor events have the potential to not only significantly increase physical fitness, but support positive mental health, bring communities together, and combat social isolation. As autumn approaches however, and the weather deteriorates, people are likely to spend more time indoors, less time being active, and less time socialising. If the evidence shows the risk of COVID-19 transmission in outdoor settings is as low as has been assumed then we should do all we can to reopen physical activity events, from mass participation to small local gatherings."

Results from the review will be published next month.


Notes to editors

  • The review will also seek evidence of the impact of high profile mass gatherings, both immediately before (e.g. Champions League soccer matches) and during (e.g. Black Lives Matter protests) lockdowns.
  • The review will not seek, evaluate or analyse evidence relating to the science of outdoor transmission. As such, it will be a review of evidence of whether and when outdoor transmission has taken place, not of how outdoor transmission takes place.
  • A key additional purpose of the review will be to assess whether a further extended more detailed and comprehensive review would capture wider and more extensive evidence. It will also consider what new research could be undertaken to generate further evidence in a timely manner.
  • The Protocol for a Rapid Scoping Review of Evidence of Outdoor Transmission of COVID-19 is available here.



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Last edited: 15/01/2020 11:19:00