Local Farmers’ Markets have had to make a tough decision to close down after some customers refuse to follow COVID safety rules.
Mullumbimby (Friday), Byron (Thursday) and Bangalow (Saturday) Farmers Markets have officially been called off by their respective management committees. The decision on whether the New Brighton Farmers Market will run next Tuesday will be made over the weekend.
‘As of this afternoon (10 August) there are now three confirmed COVID-19 cases in our area. In light of this, the Byron Farmers Market committee believes we cannot safely proceed with the market this Thursday, August 12,’ the Byron Framers Market management committee told The Echo.
‘We understand this is a blow to many – including our farmers – but this decision has not been made lightly or easily. However, in the end, it was the only decision if we are to be honest and responsible.
Risk to health
‘Ultimately, the committee’s decision came down to community health and we are not prepared to risk that.
‘This decision was made after consultation with Byron Shire Council and local police. Two of the factors that influenced this decision are:
‘1. The unique nature of the original COVID-19 case announced yesterday. The man in question has not been cooperating with police and NSW Health and was not wearing a mask or using QR check-in codes while in our region, which makes contract tracing extremely difficult. While some close contact locations have been revealed this afternoon, there will be more to come. At this stage we do not know exactly where he has been or how many others he may have infected. Given he has been circulating within our community for at least five days while infectious poses an obvious risk. Add to that the large number of people we usually have on site at the farmers market, and we believe this combination is potentially dangerous – at least until we have a clearer picture of the impact of this case.
‘2. Lack of compliance. While we are thankful and appreciative of the many customers who have supported us by following NSW Health directives regarding compliance – wearing masks, using QR codes to check-in and social distancing – there is still a significant number who do not cooperate with these safety measures. It has been very challenging for us to try to enforce these directives, so we feel the only option is to cancel this week’s market rather than risk public health.’
Mullum market closes
The management committee for Mullumbimby Farmers Market cited similar reasons for their closure this Friday, 11 August.
‘Ultimately the decision came down to safety for our community, farmers and staff as too many people were not cooperating with our COVID-19 safety plan and we need time to reassess the situation,’ the committee told The Echo.
‘This comes as a massive blow to the committee and all of our stallholders who have been working towards local food security in our region for 11 years. Our market management has been working extremely hard to develop a framework that the market could operate safely but given that we are now in lockdown and confirmed COVID-19 cases have been very active in our region.
‘We would like to recognise and thank our customers who have supported the markets COVID-19 plan and NSW Health directives. But we also need to address the fact that the refusal to comply and work with market management by a significant number of customers has influenced this decision as we cannot guarantee 100 per cent adherence to the plan and safety for all of our customers and stallholders. Community health and well-being have to remain a priority.’