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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Virus sparks a-poo-calypse

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Paul Bibby

The impact of the coronavirus threat is clearly being felt across the Shire with Southern Cross University closing its Gold Coast and Lismore campuses yesterday (Wednesday, March 11) after a staff member was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Virtually every local supermarket has experienced a mad rush on toilet paper, echoing the nation-wide trend of people stocking up on the staple for fear of one apocalyptic scenario or another.

‘We’ve had a rush on toilet paper, tissues, long-life milk, hand sanitiser and canned goods,’ Maddy, a staff member at Byron Woolies said.

‘We’ve been trying to get a bit extra, but it does seem to go quite quickly.’

Perhaps more worrying, given the local economy’s reliance on tourism, is a downturn in the number of people visiting the Shire.

The head of Destination Byron, David Jones, said while he had not spoken to many operators about COVID-19 specifically, there was ‘certainly a demand downturn underway’.

Demand downturn

‘There could be some horrible times ahead,’ said Mr Jones, who is also the sales and marketing manager at Elements of Byron.

‘From Elements’ perspective, the biggest area of risk is the events and conference market.

‘We’ve seen some last-minute groups reallocating their travels from abroad to domestic. We’ve also seen that, pending travel advisories, their travels might not be going ahead.’

These travel advisories had the potential to put a big dent in the local tourism industry, he said.

‘As soon as a government advisory is in affect [warning people against travelling to Australia or anywhere overseas] that can trigger an Act of God clause.

‘That renders their contract with an operator null and void.

‘I think people still feel fairly safe domestically, but that will change once these numbers continue to grow.’

One factor in Byron’s favour was that the region did not rely heavily on tourists from China.

‘I think Byron is slightly more immune – we don’t tend to have as many Asian travellers,’ Mr Jones said.

‘And the backpackers here are pretty much locked in. I think we’ll fare better than the Gold Coast and Cairns. But I think people will stop travelling domestically if, and when, the numbers continue to grow.’

Bluesfest to go ahead

There has been considerable social media discussion about the possibility that another major tourism drawcard, Byron Bluesfest, could be cancelled owing to the spread of the virus.

While scores of events across the globe have been cancelled, Bluesfest organisers have vowed that the show will go on.

‘All events of a public nature in Australia are proceeding in the entertainment and sporting areas, and we look forward to presenting our best Bluesfest yet,’ festival director Peter Noble said.

‘It’s business as usual.While the Coronavirus is of obvious concern, the key instruction provided by authorities on the matter is to regularly wash your hands with soap, and to use hand sanitiser if that’s not possible.’

Meanwhile, the Northern NSW Local Health District said testing for COVID-19 had been occurring at facilities within the Northern NSW Local Health District since mid-February.

‘All NSW public health units, including North Coast Public Health Unit staff based at Lismore, are experienced in working closely with local clinicians in preparing for public health responses.

‘This includes recently participating in exercises using various scenarios to maximise our preparedness.’

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  1. I hadn’t realised that diarrhea is one of the symptoms of COVID-19!

    Maybe time to invest in a bidet manufacturer?

  2. Headline ‘Virus stops for Peter Noble’!

    Peter Noble thinks he’s a law unto himself.
    Mr Nimrod & the doer of all good things providing he gets his money. Never mind if it infects the entire region for lengthy periods.

    I look forward to some quiet time in the region. We deserve it.

    Love & blessings

  3. Hey.. they can always wash themselves in bourbon at their campsites after 5 days of close contact in venue tents with thousands.
    I mean who cares about our kids & our community? It rhetorical! We do….
    Germfest 2020!

    How’s that for a positive spin.
    While Italy sensibly closes its doors, Peter Noble says ‘bring it on’.

    Morally incoherent quite frankly!

    Bourbon is a great disinfectant!

  4. Funny! We should send Peter Noble round the country as the ‘vaccinerator’. I mean is he seriously amazing or what?

    Bourbon is a great disinfectant!

    Love & blessings

  5. It’s unquestionably irresponsible in the current public health emergency for an event the size of Bluesfest to go ahead at the moment. Coronavirus is a declared pandemic and public health emergency. It has seen an entire nation shut its borders, European flights to America being banned and the biggest music festival in the world, Coachella, being postponed .
    No amount of hand washing will prevent a virulent virus like this from infecting people in the conditions of an event like Bluesfest. The toilets are often filthy, there is no way in crowded marquees to practice “safe distancing” and it will be a high risk event for so many people, not the least the immune compromised and the elderly.
    It’s hard to comprehend anyone thinking it’s ok to go ahead with Bluesfest at this time. It should be postponed until this emergency passes.

  6. Agreed. So a pandemic, labelled a public health emergency, most lethal in crowds, can be ignored just because an event like Bluesfest can’t get to grips with the danger of its going ahead? No amount of hand sanitiser will be effective to prevent viral contamination when people are crammed so close together in a marquee with limited cross ventilation. It’s madness.
    Not postponing or cancelling this event is wanton irresponsibility. It’s mind boggling that Bluesfest can’t see what a breeding ground for disaster this will be.

  7. Bluesfest should definitely be cancelled for this year.

    The organisers need to show some leadership.

    What is wrong with them that they don’t understand that this is not an ordinary virus. Dealing with it demands extraordinary common sense.

    How much money is at risk if it’s cancelled? Is that the thing that’s stopping it being cancelled?

    Cancel it now and people can go next time. Don’t cancel it and for some there won’t be a next time. Simple (and horrible) as that.

  8. It is incredibly irresponsible to go ahead with Bluesfest now that the virus has been demonstrated to have undergone community transmission – it will make the Northern Rivers an epicentre of infections. Putting profit before peoples lives is morally bankrupt. It’s only a bloody music festival!!! Sure, people will be disappointed, but if it prevents thousands of cases of infection, and potentially dozens of deaths – it’s worth postponing the event.

  9. I’ve been looking forward to Bluesfest since I bought my early bird ticket but i realise it’s ridiculous for this event to go ahead in the current circumstances. Covid 19 is lethal to our old family and community members. How many deaths will an event like this ultimately be responsible for if it goes ahead?


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