Event organisers need certainty, not mixed COVID messages and inconsistent treatment

Ian Bushnell 22 April 2021 43
Dr Kerryn Coleman

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has been ultra-cautious. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Chief Health Officer has shepherded the ACT successfully through more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the continued, highly cautionary approach is starting to grate at a time when the ACT is virus-free and the vaccine rollout, hopefully, will be complete by the end of the year.

The continuing limits on live music where there is not fixed front-facing tiered seating not only threaten the viability of small venues, but the ongoing lack of certainty makes planning for larger events such as the National Folk Festival nigh on impossible.

Organisers can apply for exemptions, which in themselves make a mockery of the restrictions. And how major events with long lead times take advantage of that is anyone’s guess.

They also rightly point to the huge full-throated crowd at Canberra Stadium last weekend where any notion of social distancing was abandoned, and the way venues such as cinemas and theatres can operate at 100 per cent capacity.


READ MORE: National Cabinet expands vaccine rollout, third vaccination hub flagged for ACT


How is 20,000-plus at the football or the open slather that is our shopping malls any different from crowds at EPIC for the Folk Festival or Summernats or Spilt Milk?

These sections of the entertainment sector feel like they are being treated unfairly and that the health approach is inconsistent and opaque in a city that is one of the safest on the planet.

On the one hand, the decision to pause repatriation flights to Canberra, for the time being, is adding to our sense of security because the only way COVID-19 is likely to rear its ugly head again is from someone from overseas.

But at the same time, the government will allow travellers to self-isolate at home.


READ ALSO: ACT well-placed to pivot to home quarantine for returning residents: Barr


With the latest wave in India turning nasty and the virus continuing on its march in other parts of the world, the federal government should rethink accepting more repat flights and its reliance on quarantine hotels in capital cities.

Making this practice even more dangerous are the variants that overseas travellers are likely to bring to our shores.

Allowing travellers to self-isolate at home is a practice fraught with peril.

All it would take is for a quick trip to the shops to reintroduce the virus to the community and kick off the familiar cycles of restrictions and lockdowns.

Then there is the vaccine rollout that is supposed to protect us all. Many of the events that organisers are trying to plan will occur after the great bulk of the population will be vaccinated, yet they are bound by restrictions that don’t take that into account and the paralysing lack of certainty that accompanies it.


READ MORE: Theatres and cinemas back to full houses, help for live music venues on its way


To the public, all of these things are adding up to a melange of mixed messages that are leaving it more sceptical and cynical and, in the end, more blasé.

The ACT and Australian health authorities and governments have done an admirable job to keep us safe, but to retain public confidence, there needs to be more caution at the obvious flashpoints, such as overseas infection, and less focus on tying the hands of event organisers and threatening the existence of longstanding cultural institutions and businesses.


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43 Responses to Event organisers need certainty, not mixed COVID messages and inconsistent treatment
Shazza Mumma Shazza Mumma 11:04 pm 23 Apr 21

It's all a load of absolute crap...1 rule there 1 rule here double standards it's ridiculous just goes to show this covid thing has all just come down to control now nothing at all to do with the virus itself... get used to the "new norm" everyone🤦‍♀️

John Boland John Boland 10:20 pm 23 Apr 21

the a pretty good "health advice" spiel somewhere in their response but it hasn't been said yet 🤣

Loretta Hately Loretta Hately 8:06 pm 23 Apr 21

100% agree. Parents were not allowed to watch their kids at the outdoor track and field venue at AIS for a running carnival with no more than 200 people there but yet 20,000 packed the stadium at a footy match. So many mixed messages.

Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 7:24 pm 23 Apr 21

Some venues are better at managing a large number of people.

Geoffrey John Randal Geoffrey John Randal 6:48 pm 23 Apr 21

Sorry, certainty was kicked out the window by an ever evolving pandemic. Ask for certainty and you're on the wrong planet.

Christine Jack Christine Jack 2:43 pm 23 Apr 21

It’s all about money 💰

Ian Gooch Ian Gooch 12:24 pm 23 Apr 21

Not to mention ANZAC day restrictions!😡

Milestone Entertainment Milestone Entertainment 12:19 pm 23 Apr 21

Well said! We have been fortunate in Canberra, however the current restrictions on entertainment venues are crippling to both owners and artists alike. The recent grant announcement was warmly received, but let’s get some equity on restrictions so that our cherished local venues can keep their heads above water.

Tom Adam Tom Adam 11:56 am 23 Apr 21

It’s all about $$$, just think - if it goes to the ACT coffers versus local people???

Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 11:40 am 23 Apr 21

It's a 1 month turn around to get a COVID event plan approved at EPIC. 1 month of waiting, not being able to plan the event without the venue. Those plans are all for the same venues and all have the same objectives, so why one month? NSW with clear your covid event plan in 3 days......

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 9:47 am 23 Apr 21

The Hospitals are the same. Still capacity restrictions when you visit, yet you can hang out with 100 sniffing nobody's at the footy just an hour before visiting the hospital

Melissa Hobbs Melissa Hobbs 8:10 am 23 Apr 21

Completely arbitrary decisions with no consistency

Nigel Timmerman Nigel Timmerman 8:09 am 23 Apr 21

Mosh pits at folk festivals can be pretty intense...

    Lindy Turnbull Lindy Turnbull 8:47 am 23 Apr 21

    Wine Machine a few weeks ago was VERY intense!!! 🤣🤣 No Covid rules there when the sun went down!

Greg Peterson Greg Peterson 7:57 am 23 Apr 21

Or ANZAC Day.......

Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 7:47 am 23 Apr 21

The answer is obvious. At seated events mixing of people is limited to arrival/leaving/ toilet & drink breaks. So exposure is much less limited if an infected person attends. We have the 10 or so people seated around them, and the few people they passed on the way in.

At a festival, exposure is the 100s of people they pass every minute as they move around through the crowds.

How is this even a question?

    Denise Bridges Denise Bridges 7:57 am 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady because many festivals are now designed as seated ie sit and watch and listen to the music. So essentially no different to a sitting football match.

    Greg Peterson Greg Peterson 8:00 am 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady you left out shopping centres and zero rules there.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 8:05 am 23 Apr 21

    Denise, I’m fairly sure that fully seated events/festivals would be approved. Just like the cinema and theatre. Are you aware of applications for seated events that haven’t been approved?

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 8:06 am 23 Apr 21

    Greg, I’m referring to the examples used by the author.

    But also - to say there are no rules there is a lie. They have limited numbers they’re allowed in stores and are responsible for keeping people 1.5m apart.

    Brook Morris Brook Morris 8:24 am 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady. I've been to a Broncos game, with 20000 people, all seated next to each other. Also at the bbl late last year.

    Denise Bridges Denise Bridges 8:25 am 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady my understanding is that the Blues festival was seated, but they canceled it. Also I have attended a festival recently that was seated, so yes many festivals are able to be hosted as seated events. There is a great deal of inconsistency when it comes to the new regulations.

    Greg Peterson Greg Peterson 8:25 am 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady as I said, you left it out....

    "or the open slather that is our shopping malls"

    As the author noted, there's no consistency, you only need to look at the packed eateries, travellators and shoulder rubbing in the main areas.

    Jilly Beans Jilly Beans 8:35 am 23 Apr 21

    Greg Peterson you are supposed to use hand sanitiser, check in with the app and stay 1.5m apart- just because most people seem to be wilfully ignorant doesn’t mean rules don’t exist.

    Kellie McCann Kellie McCann 8:57 am 23 Apr 21

    Doesn't matter if its seated as thw only name they have is for the ticket purchaser ragrdless of how many seats theyve got assigned. There is no distancing between people either so even the event hosts dont follow any regulations. And seating doesnt mean table service you still interact with people getting to your seat, going to the loo, getting food and drink and then shoulder to shoulder when your leaving the event.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 9:59 am 23 Apr 21

    Yes Kellie, but that interaction is limited. If you’re infecting people the number of people infected is significantly smaller than if you’re interacting with different people for the whole event.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 10:21 am 23 Apr 21

    Greg, as Jilly and I both pointers out already, there ARE rules. Additionally, we need shops to live - good clothing etc. they’re more essential than a festival. Secondly, it’s much rarer for people to hang around a shopping centre for several hours as opposed to a festival where almost everyone does.

    Trud Ster Trud Ster 2:44 pm 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady you don’t need clothing as an essential item. Groceries and toiletries yes. But people also go to other events for their mental health, just like you doing your cloth shopping is for your mental health more than an essential part of life.

    Trud Ster Trud Ster 2:45 pm 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady guessing you’ve never been to a football event to know exactly how much interaction there is. Don’t forget how many visit the bathrooms and still fail to wash their hands. Even worse when alcohol is involved.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 3:07 pm 23 Apr 21

    Trud I’m a Raiders member and attend every home match. I have also frequented many festivals pre-covid and I can confidently confirm that the number of people interacted with is significantly lower than at a festival.

    All the examples you’re using of when people are interacting at a football match when they’re not in their seats is status quo for the whole time at a festival.

    Have you been to a football match since covid restrictions? Maybe you’re not aware of how it is now.

    Mark Whithear Mark Whithear 4:32 pm 23 Apr 21

    easy to see your livelihood hasn’t been affected by these ridiculous cancellations...

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 7:53 pm 23 Apr 21

    I used to wonder how societies in the past degenerated into citizens dobbing each other in to various regimes. Since COVID I get it, some people live for rules and reporting. I am less inclined that way, but I thank the advent of Covid for teaching me why history consistantly repeats itself.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 9:39 pm 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady the 'few' people they passed on the way in? You obviously weren't at the Raiders game last weekend. 20K people attended, you were shoulder-to-shoulder going in, out or just walking around during the game. Then crammed into buses, not even standing room, on the way home. I love my footy but I do get the drift of this article.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 10:09 pm 23 Apr 21

    Max, I was at that game. You’re still missing the point. The “shoulder to shoulder” is limited to entry, exit, and an occasional run to the vendors/toilet. The rest of the time your exposure is limited to the 10ppl around you.

    At a festival, 100% of the time you’re shoulder to shoulder and virus spreading vectors are way more.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 10:09 pm 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady last Saturday night, 20K people, was, finals aside, the busiest game I've been to in a while. And packed like sardines into the bus home.

    Renee Mae Renee Mae 10:12 pm 23 Apr 21

    Leigh Brady I think the difference is negligible. You only have to come into contact with a single person with the virus to be at risk of getting it.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 10:28 pm 23 Apr 21

    Max, it’s not about one person catching it. It’s the mathematical spread that is the issue. The comparison is - if an infected person visits a game, the possible vectors are those they pass on the way in, the way out, the 5-6people seated around them, and those they passed on the way to the toilet. They might infect 50 ppl. That’s bad.

    At a festival, they’re passing 150ppl an hour. That’s really bad.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 10:39 pm 25 Apr 21

    Mark, I agree that people’s livelihoods are at stake and need consideration. But to compare seated with non-seated events is just naive. It’s not comparing apples with apples.

Styna Leary Styna Leary 7:45 am 23 Apr 21

Our town has decided it’s not safe ‘easy’ to have an Anzac March, but two up at the club in the afternoon is perfectly acceptable 😒

The inconsistent rules make it difficult for smaller events

    Katie Humphrys Katie Humphrys 8:30 am 23 Apr 21

    Styna Leary yes. I have just discovered this. I don’t get it. Talked about mixed messages

Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 7:28 am 23 Apr 21

378 days since the only unknown Covid-19 case in the ACT, 287 days since the last local acquired case in the ACT, 373 days since the last Covid-19 death in the ACT, 361 days since the last Covid-19 patient was in an ICU bed in the ACT.

Jessica Arena Jessica Arena 7:23 am 23 Apr 21

Or heaven forbid our small restaurants, cafes and bars be allowed to go back to their full operating capacity but while exemptions are given to the larger venues.

Shane Hughes Shane Hughes 7:20 am 23 Apr 21

Safety first agreed, but please some consistency!

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