Update 4.45pm, March 31
Byron Bluesfest has been cancelled by order of the NSW Health Minister, after a locally-acquired COVID case was discovered last night.
In devastating news for music fans, performers, and thousands of behind-the-scene workers and stall holders, Health Minister Brad Hazzard issued a public health order this afternoon cancelling the iconic event.
Expected to attract up to 16,500 music fans from across the country, the event has now been cancelled for the second year running.
‘This action is being taken to minimise the risk of the highly infectious COVID-19 variant of concern being transmitted in the local area, as well as across states and territories,’ NSW Health said in a statement.
Mr Hazzard said the 2021 festival would be rescheduled and encouraged would-be attendees to hold onto their tickets.
‘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,’ he said.
Coming just a day before the festival was due to open, the news is a huge let-down given the amount of work that has already been undertaken.
‘This is one of the most difficult statements I have ever had to make,’ Bluefsest Director Peter Noble said.
‘We really wanted to be at the forefront of the return of live music at Pre-COVID-19 level.
‘We feel deeply for everybody affected, the fans, the artists, and the hard-working Bluesfest team. But in the end, the health of our community must come first.
‘We will be having discussions regarding Bluesfest postponement and will update everybody soon. However, this weekend we will be packing down the event that was cancelled within 24 hours of gates due to open.’
In a statement, festival organisers said they were getting the message out as quickly as possible so that those traveling to the event could make alternate arrangements
Bluesfest was to have been the first major festival to occur in Australia and possibly the world since the summer of 2019/20.
It had a capacity of 16,500 people daily over its five days, with three performance stages, plus camping – operating at approximately 50 percent of normal capacity and production.
The Bluesfest team had worked for a year to achieve the approved COVID-19 Safety Plan – the first of its kind in the music industry and have been told by the NSW Health that it exceeded other major sporting events in its depth and ability to protect the public.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced new COVID-related restrictions for the Byron, Ballina, Tweed and Lismore shires until the end of Easter, as the first locally-acquired case from the Beach Hotel hens party is confirmed.
The restrictions include limiting private home gatherings to 30, and that all venues revert to the four-square-metre rule and require patrons to stay seated.
‘We also ask for people in those four local government areas to wear a mask and we will make this mandatory in retail if you are going shopping, in hospitality venues if you’re a worker and on public transport…’ Ms Berejiklian said.
Ms Berejiklian also confirmed that a man in his 20s who attended the Beach Hotel at the same time as the hens party at the centre of the Queensland outbreak has tested positive for the virus.
The man’s three friends have been tested and returned negative results.
As a result of this new case, the first local case to emerge from the Hen’s party, NSW Health has identified new venues which may have been spreading points for COVID.
These include the Ballina Golf and Sports Club pro shop on Sunday March 28 between 2.25pm and 2.35pm and The Henry Rous Tavern between 1.20pm and 2.20pm.
Anyone who attended those venues between those times is asked to immediately seek a COVID test and isolate until a negative test is returned.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard has also said that health officials have ‘concerns’ about Bluesfest, raising the prospect that the event could be more tightly restricted, or worse.
‘At this point all I can say to those people who might be intending to attend, and to the organisers themselves, which I have expressed to them personally… just be alert to the messages that will come from the NSW Government in the next 12-24 hours as we look at the unfolding situation…’ Mr Hazzard said.
‘It is important and complex, that we weigh up the competing interests of trying to let people do what we have always done in NSW, and that is have as much freedom as possible, to enjoy what NSW has done so well, what has been referred to as a gold-standard approach to managing this virus, but also to make sure we keep people safe.’
Other new cases from hen’s party cluster
The announcement follows revelations that five attendees at a Byron Bay hen’s party held last weekend have now tested positive for COVID-19, heightening concerns that the virus may spread throughout the local community.
As contact tracers work overtime to track down those who came in contact with the Queensland party-goers, NSW Health is urging anyone in the Byron region with even the mildest symptoms to get tested.
Those with symptoms are also being asked to isolate until they get a negative result.
The hens party cluster, which includes a nurse from Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital and her sister, involves the highly-contagious UK strain of the virus.
This cluster is one of two that have resulted in a snap, three-day lockdown in Brisbane and compulsory mask-wearing throughout Queensland.
The Byron Shire has now been declared a red zone by the Northern Territory government, meaning that anyone returning to that state from this Shire must get tested and then go into quarantine.
The Shire has been declared an amber zone by the Victorian government.
The organisers of Bluesfest have declared that the festival will go ahead, having been given the all-clear by NSW Health.
Updated list of locations…
Yesterday NSW Health updated the list of places that the two sisters visited while they were in Byron Bay.
There are several venues consider to be a ‘close contact’ location and several are classed as ‘casual contact’ locations.
Anyone who attended a venue classed as a ‘close contact’ location must immediately get tested and self-isolate until advised further by NSW Health.
Anyone who attended a venue classed as a ‘casual contact’ location must get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. You should continue to monitor for symptoms and if any symptoms occur, get tested again.
Close contact locations
If you have been to:
Suffolk Park – Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park – women’s communal toilets in Suffolk Park during any of the following times:
Friday 26 March between 6pm to 6:30pm
Friday 26 March between 9:10pm to 9:30pm
Saturday 27 March between 3:20pm to 3:50pm
Byron Beach Hotel in Byron Bay on Friday 26 March from 7pm to 9pm
Mokha Café in Byron Bay on Saturday 27 March from 10:30am to 11:30am
Betty’s Burgers & Concrete Co in Byron Bay on Saturday 27 March from 11am to 12pm including patrons who sat in the laneway (Feros Arcade)
The Farm Byron Bay on Sunday 28 March from 8:45am to 10:30am
Anyone who attended any of the above venues at these times is a close contact and must immediately get tested and self-isolate until advised further by NSW Health.
Casual contact locations
If you have been to:
Byron Bay – Ghanda Clothing on Saturday 27 March from 12pm to 12:15pm
Tiger Lily Byron Bay on Saturday 27 March from 12:25pm to 12:30pm
Black Sheep on Saturday 27 March from 12:30pm to 12:40pm
Quiksilver Byron Bay on Saturday 27 March from 12:40pm to 12:45pm
Suffolk Park – Suffolk Bakery on Saturday 27 March from 2:45pm to 3:15pm
Park Hotel Bottle Shop on Saturday 27 March from 7:30pm to 7:45pm