The UK’s Boris Johnson has faced criticism after sitting maskless next to David Attenborough at COP26. So what are the COVID-safe protocols in place at the summit?
By Laurie Goering
GLASGOW -COVID-19 – (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The rubber-gloved bathroom attendants at the COP26 climate talks venue may have the event’s least enviable job – wiping down the portable toilet cubicles after every use to help fight COVID-19.
More than 25,000 delegates are attending the U.N. talks – one of the first major global gatherings to be held during the pandemic – and organisers have implemented a raft of anti-virus measures including daily testing and mask wearing requirements.
“The safety and security of everyone at COP26 and in the surrounding community is of utmost importance,” organisers said in a 13-page advice note urging delegates to avoid hugs and offering guidance on how to recycle wet wipe packaging.
That has at times proved a challenge as delegates from close to 200 countries try to make sense of the detailed instructions on swabbing, swirling and dabbing needed to administer a test.
On the first day of the conference, hundreds of delegates poured into a testing facility next to the entrance with phones in hand and puzzled expressions to seek technical help and initial tests.
A few, flummoxed at their inability to master the app, showed up to the conference gates the next day with their self-administered negative tests in hand – before being directed back to the testing facility.
Maintaining one-metre of social distancing – the amount recommended by conference organisers – has also proved tricky.
Events inside the conference centre also had a COVID-era flavour.
A discussion on “loss and damage” from climate change at Germany’s display pavilion on Monday featured two panelists inside a closed goldfish-bowl-style Plexiglas room, while listeners sat outside, linked to the discussion via headphones.
Additional speakers appeared by video link at the event which, like many at COP26, was a combination live and virtual discussion.
“As hosts, we recognise how urgently the world must come together to agree on action to tackle climate change,” the organisers noted in advice to delegates.
But “everyone coming to COP26 has an important role to play in keeping themselves, their fellow participants and the community safe”, it added.
Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; Editing by Helen Popper: Credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation