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Coronavirus cancellations cascade through ACT as government continues to call for calm

Dominic Giannini 14 March 2020 28
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith (left) and ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman (right) have said Canberrans are still free to attend major events. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

A cascade of coronavirus cancellations has begun to impact the ACT, as organisations consider whether their gatherings constitute a health risk.

The Federal Government has recommended that any non-essential, organised gatherings of more than 500 people – excluding schools and public transport – be cancelled from Monday (16 March).

Canberra Airport has also cancelled their open day on April 5, all public events at the ANU have also been cancelled or postponed until further notice, as has the ACT Claycourt Tennis International.

Yarralumla’s Chinese Lantern Festival has been cancelled for the second time after initially being postponed in February, as has the North Ainslie Primary School fiesta, this year’s Cancer Council Relay For Life and the Indian community’s Vaishaki Mela in early April.

Marymead’s official opening has been postponed, the Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival has been cancelled and Basketball ACT will cancel all events this weekend.

As coronavirus cancellations begin to cascade, we've got the latest for you on what's been postponed, cancelled or will go ahead. The advice from the ACT government is still to use your own judgement about attending events, but expect more changes as the Federal government's advice regarding cancellation of events with more than 500 people begins to take effect.

Posted by The RiotACT on Thursday, 12 March 2020

Skyfire has postponed their event while the open day at Government House this Saturday (14 March) has been cancelled. Anthems Festival – which was set to take place at Commonwealth Park on 28 March – has also been cancelled over coronavirus fears.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra has cancelled its performances at Llewellyn Hall next Wednesday and Thursday.

The Australian National University will cancel public events and social gatherings from Monday and will announce additional precautionary measures for classes, residential colleges and the broader work environment in coming days.

However the ACT Government maintains that Canberrans should not be concerned about attending events like the Raiders’ and Brumbies’ games this weekend as they call for calm.

They say that there is no proof of person to person transmission following an ACT man’s diagnosis with the virus and that the community needs to adopt “a proportionate risk-based approach”.

But as anxiety ripples through the community faster than COVID-19, a Canberra clinical psychologist says heightened concerns and rumours will only fuel our fears.

Repeated and constant updates about transmissions and deaths is only making community anxiety worse, clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Canberra, Dr Vivienne Lewis.

“The main reason people are so anxious is that they are seeing people are dying from it, there are a lot of unknown factors,” she told Region Media.

“Anxiety is often anticipation or being fearful of something that is unknown. It is quite common people become anxious over their health, about being sick or about dying. It is that lack of control, as in you do not seem to have a lot of control over this virus.

“When things are cancelled it creates that panic and it adds to the anxiety and anger people feel as well.”

Canberrans are also more susceptible to some of this panic and nervousness at the moment after coming off a summer of heightened anxiety over bushfires, the impact of hazardous air quality and cancelled holidays, Dr Lewis said.

“This is coming at a time where people are already stressed about how things have been over the last couple of months,” she said.

“It has a negative effect on people’s psychology but if [cancelling events] is something we have to do, then we have to do it.”

While the ACT Government is maintaining its position that events should proceed as usual this weekend with there being no person to person transmission in the ACT, President of the ACT Australian Medical Association, Dr Antonio Di Dio, says it does not hurt to be cautious.

“We support the government in that large public gatherings are potentially very dangerous and there is a very good chance in the near future that recommendations will be made to stop large public gatherings,” he told Region Media.

“All of those people need to be extremely cautious and make personal decisions about whether they attend large public gatherings or not. I am also very anxious personally about large public gatherings in general.”

By cancelling mass events to slow the spread of the virus, and therefore removing an influx of demand on the healthcare system, Australia could see a decrease in the severe cases, Dr Di Dio said.

“The speed at which the infection occurs is crucial,” he said.

“If the infection occurs over the period of several weeks, as opposed to over a few days, then you might get the same number of people infected by you may have far fewer severe infections.

“There may also be far fewer severe outcomes and a health system that is able to cope if the load is distributed over a slower period of time.”

Dr Di Dio says that while a lot is still unknown about the virus, it is better to be safe than sorry.

“I feel that as individuals we need to be extremely cautious and I do not see anything wrong with being over-cautious.”

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28 Responses to Coronavirus cancellations cascade through ACT as government continues to call for calm
HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:53 pm 19 Mar 20

Some (very) historical perspective, from Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year (1722) –

ORDERS Conceived and Published by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London concerning the Infection of the Plague, 1665.

As soon as any man shall be found by this examiner, chirurgeon, or searcher to be sick of the plague, he shall the same night be sequestered in the same house

That the brewers and tippling-houses be looked unto for musty and unwholesome casks.

That no hogs, dogs, or cats, or tame pigeons, or conies, be suffered to be kept within any part of the city

That all plays, bear-baitings, games, singing of ballads, buckler-play, or such-like causes of assemblies of people be utterly prohibited, and the parties offending severely punished by every alderman in his ward.

That all public feasting, and particularly by the companies of this city, and dinners at taverns, ale-houses, and other places of common entertainment, be forborne till further order and allowance, and that the money thereby spared be preserved and employed for the benefit and relief of the poor visited with the infection.

That disorderly tippling in taverns, ale-houses, coffee-houses, and cellars be severely looked unto, as the common sin of this time and greatest occasion of dispersing the plague.

Acton Acton 10:11 am 15 Mar 20

Previous generations were a lot tougher and more resilient than today. When incendiary bombs were dropping over London during WW2 the people dealt with it. Reissue the poster from that time ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.

Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 9:28 pm 14 Mar 20

What an absolute fiasco. Media driven panic!

David Brown David Brown 5:23 pm 14 Mar 20

Keep calm and stay home.

Jen Wright Jen Wright 12:09 am 14 Mar 20

Close schools now

Maria Greene Maria Greene 10:32 pm 13 Mar 20

If you close schools and childcare centres many doctors and nurses won't go to work

Thanus Songprasart Thanus Songprasart 9:47 pm 13 Mar 20

Overreacting is better than under react. You don’t want to end up like Italy as we are approaching colder period.

    Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 9:29 am 15 Mar 20

    Thanus Songprasart Italy’s Problem is that they have a VERY LARGE aged population. Stop relying on Chinese whispers as facts

Mina Wong Mina Wong 9:45 pm 13 Mar 20

500 people is not called social distancing. It’s still called social gathering. Don’t really understand why we still keep that many ...5 should be the limit because of one of the five has it, it could spread to another 2 to 3 people. And keeps going. It will be really hard to trace and track if 500 people gathering!!!

    Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 4:25 pm 14 Mar 20

    Mina Wong not everyone gets sick, and those that do, not all die.

    Mina Wong Mina Wong 4:49 pm 14 Mar 20

    Peter McDonald -stop trying to mislead people into downplaying the deadly nature of the virus if you do not want to end up dead by the virus itself. NZ has now imposed the most right step ever done by any leaders in the world. Compulsory 14-days quarantine for anyone arriving in NZ from overseas!

    Lynn Barry Lynn Barry 7:53 am 15 Mar 20

    Mina Wong Canada the same

Alexandra Hughes Alexandra Hughes 8:47 pm 13 Mar 20

Maybe everyone around the world should stay home for 14 days. Close the markets, suspend everything. Will be a lot cheaper overall.

    Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 4:23 pm 14 Mar 20

    Alexandra Hughes that would work. But what about water and electricity supplies. Who keeps that running. Hospitals? Pizza Hut, Sewage? Dam, wished I’d stockpiled toilet paper.

    Alexandra Hughes Alexandra Hughes 4:29 pm 14 Mar 20

    Peter McDonald obviously citical staff excluded but would make distribution of PPE a lot more effective. I don't know but it seems like a cheaper solution than continuing to have people exposed and the social, physical and economic consequences of that. Pizza Hut does not count as critical 🙂

    Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 4:38 pm 14 Mar 20

    Alexandra Hughes yes, I think it’s a good idea. It might work on a country by country plan. Getting some where like Africa and places like Afghanistan to join would be the challenge. Not hearing anything on Africa.

Dean O'Brien Dean O'Brien 7:24 pm 13 Mar 20

If it follows the same kind of time line as past viruses, this is only the first phase. Its the second and third phase of the virus to worry about, the Spanish flu didnt inflict death till it moved into the second phase which was a few months after initial onset.

    Karolina Kilian Karolina Kilian 7:38 pm 13 Mar 20

    Dean O'Brien this is not good news.

    Karolina Kilian Karolina Kilian 7:38 pm 13 Mar 20

    So what happened between 1st and 2nd phase??

    Dean O'Brien Dean O'Brien 8:01 pm 13 Mar 20

    Karolina Kilian to not scare anyone I suggest you read about it.

    Smita Patel Smita Patel 8:20 pm 13 Mar 20

    Dean O'Brien yeah. All the people comparing this to the ‘flu it’s like yep the Spanish ‘flu

    Natalie O'Hara Natalie O'Hara 8:56 pm 13 Mar 20

    May Haywood see what i was saying the other day

Glen Rothwell Glen Rothwell 6:57 pm 13 Mar 20

Yeah lets just let people mix n mingle so we can all enjoy pneumonia,,

Dawn Bowra Dawn Bowra 6:32 pm 13 Mar 20

I’m surprised they are letting the rugby go ahead

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