Bluesfest cancelled after falling victim to Byron Bay Covid cluster

One of the largest music festivals in Australia cancelled by NSW government after local man tests positive to coronavirus

The event hailed as the first major Australian music festival post-Covid has been cancelled.

The New South Wales government announced on Wednesday that Bluesfest in Byron Bay would not be permitted to go ahead over Easter.

The state’s health minister, Brad Hazzard, said he had signed a public health order cancelling the festival, which was supposed to commence on Thursday and run through to Monday.

The move follows tighter restrictions being placed on parts of northern NSW as a new locally acquired case of Covid-19 was detected.

Hazzard said a number of infectious Queensland travellers attended various venues in the Byron Bay area in recent days, with one traveller infecting a local man in his 20s at the Byron Beach hotel on the evening of Friday 26 March.

On Monday, the minister had ordered Bluesfest ticket holders from the greater Brisbane area not to attend the festival’s opening day, as the region including Brisbane, Ipswich, Moreton Bay, Logan and Redlands prepared to enter a three-day lockdown.

“This [cancellation] 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,” Hazzard said on Wednesday.

“The cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for ticket holders and event organisers, however, while urgent investigations and contact tracing are ongoing, NSW Health is adopting a cautious approach to keep everyone safe.”

#bluesfest cancelled so last minute ... what a blow to the whole region 😢#Covid_19 #covidqld

— laura roberts (@newfielife) March 31, 2021

Hazzard acknowledged the effort the Bluesfest team and its director, Peter Noble, had put into making the festival a Covid-safe event.

As many as 15,000 people were expected to attend the five-day festival, which was to have featured performances by Jimmy Barnes, Ocean Alley, Kasey Chambers, Tash Sultana and Kate Ceberano, among others.

Hazzard urged ticket holders to support Bluesfest by holding on to their tickets and waiting for details of the festival’s rescheduling.

Noble said he was “heartbroken that Covid-19 has spread into our local community”.

“We really wanted to be at the forefront of the return of live music at pre-Covid-19 level,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

Noble said patrons would be contacted by Moshtix directly “once we have an update on how to proceed”.


Kelly Burke

The GuardianTramp

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