Byron Bay Bluesfest CANCELLED over Covid fears

Ash Cant
·5-min read

Byron Bay's huge Easter music festival, Bluesfest, has been cancelled after the region recorded a coronavirus case, attached to the Brisbane outbreak.

The festival was meant to run from Thursday, over the weekend until Monday and due to new safety measures was going to allow a crowd of about 50 per cent less than previous years.

In an email sent by NSW Health on Wednesday, it was announced the state's Minister for Health signed a public health order cancelling the event.

Byron Bay's Bluesfest has been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns for the second year in a row. Source: AAP
Byron Bay's Bluesfest has been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns for the second year in a row. Source: AAP

"NSW Health acknowledges that the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for ticket holders and event organisers," the statement said. 

"However while urgent investigations and contact tracing are ongoing, NSW Health is adopting a cautious approach to keep everyone safe."

The public health order was signed to prevent further Covid-19 transmission in the Byron Bay area.

On Wednesday, NSW recorded one new case of Covid-19, a man in his 20s who was at the same venue linked to several Covid cases in Queensland.

Bluesfest acknowledged the cancellation of the festival in a statement on Wednesday.  

Bluesfest was scheduled to return after being cancelled in 2020 by a public health order and had worked diligently to present the event in 2021," the statement said. 

"We are heartbroken that COVID-19 has spread into our local community."

The statement urged people to not come to the festival site and stated organisers are working to get the message out as quickly as possible to prevent people from travelling or allow for people to make alternate arrangements. 

Bluesfest working on a new date

“While the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for music lovers and the local community, I hope that ticket holders would support Bluesfest and hold on to their tickets as I understand Bluesfest will be working on a new date as soon as possible," Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said.

In a statement, Bluesfest also confirmed there will be discussions regarding the festival being postponed.

"We will be having discussions regarding Bluesfest postponement and will update everybody soon," the statement says.

"However, this weekend we will be packing down the event that was cancelled within 24 hours of gates due to open.

"To all ticket buyers and music fans, we are hoping that you will support the festival and hold tickets to the rescheduled event."

NSW Health acknowledged the "outstanding cooperation" of Mr Peter Noble and his team, who strived to make Bluesfest Covid-safe.

On social media, several people remarked how cancelling the festival was a massive blow, not just for the ticket holders, but those involved in putting Bluesfest together.

"This is devastating for Bluesfest and all the artists, crews, managers, promoters and music industry workers who had critical work coming," music rights management organisation APRA AMCOS said on Twitter.

"It highlights the urgency for government to partner with industry on an insurance scheme to help create some certainty for live music."

Speaking with the ABC earlier on Wednesday, Simon Richardson, the mayor of Byron Shire said Bluesfest is beloved by locals and generates around $100 million for the local community.

"It's not just the acts and those who trade at Bluesfest, it trickles down across the entire region," he said.

The Bluesfest statement said it was set to be the first major music festival to be held in Australia since the pandemic hit.

"This is one of the most difficult statements I have ever had to make," Bluesfest Director Peter Noble said in a statement. 

"We really wanted to be at the forefront of the return of live music at Pre-Covid-19 level.

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Bluesfest presented a huge risk, health expert says

Professor Marylouise McLaws, an epidemiologist and member of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said the staging of Bluesfest would have been a threat to the community given the Covid case detected in the area.

"One doesn't sound like a lot but that's one that they've been able to find so far," she told Yahoo News Australia just before it was announced Bluesfest would be cancelled.

"It is a potential for having a large cluster ignited to a large outbreak."

While Prof McLaws acknowledged cancelling Bluesfest would be a disappointment, she said given the cluster associated with Queensland is a variant of Covid, the risks were too high.

"With a highly infectious virus, your viral load is very high, even before you get symptoms you're an invisible risk to the community," she said.

She said large-scale events in Australia should be put on hold.

"I would have liked these large events to wait until the vaccine rollout had covered 100 per cent of frontline clinicians and frontline quarantine, staff, and the 900,000-odd healthcare workers from the front door to the back door of the hospital," she said.

Buskers do an impromptu performance for festival goers at the 2015 Byron Bay Bluesfest on April 3, 2015 i
Bluesfest's cancellation is a massive blow for all those involved in the festival, patrons and the Byron Bay community. Source: Getty Images

New restrictions imposed on NSW North Coast 

Due to the new Covid-19 infections in the area, Tweed Shire Council, Ballina Shire Council, Byron Shire Council and Lismore City Council are subject to restrictions from 5pm Wednesday.

The new restrictions include:

  • Mask wearing will become compulsory on public transport, in retail stores, and in all public indoor settings

  • the one person per 4 square metre rule will apply at all public indoor settings including hospitality venues

  • the number of household visitors will be capped at 30 including holiday rental properties.

The restrictions will be enforced from 5pm Wednesday until until 11:59pm on Monday, when the community will be updated.

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