6 December 2020

Music festivals a distant sound despite COVID-19 roadmap

| Dominic Giannini
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Crowd watching performance at National Multicultural Festival.

The 2020 National Multicultural Festival in Canberra has been postponed due to COVID-19. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

ACT Health will not consider easing restrictions around music festivals “in the immediate future” due to the high-risk environment they create, despite moving to ease restrictions for enclosed outdoor venues and allowing up to 1500 patrons.

The confirmation comes among a spate of festival cancellation announcements in Canberra this week, including the New Year’s Eve fireworks and Skyfire/

The National Multicultural Festival has been postponed until 2021.

“They carry a significantly increased risk of COVID-19 transmission due to a range of factors, including large crowds; close proximity; high-risk behaviours such as drinking, singing, dancing, cheering; likelihood of poor ventilation within indoor areas; many high touchpoints; and people travelling from other jurisdictions,” said an ACT Health spokesperson.

But exemptions can be granted for events and gatherings up to 8000 people that can be managed in a COVID-19-safe way.

The exemptions will give hope to events such as the Canberra International Music Festival and Belconnen Arts Centre Incorporated REWIRE that just received grants from the Federal Government through the first round of the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund for live music.

The events received $109,000 and $173,000, respectively, to support live music performers across Canberra and are expected to bring in more than 4000 people each.

READ ALSO Indigenous sounds to earth Canberra International Music Festival

“The ACT Government is working collaboratively with a number of event organisers to assist them to ensure they can run their events in a COVID-19-safe way,” said the spokesperson.

“We would encourage music festival organisers to review the COVID-19 Safe Event Protocol and consider designing their events to fall within the parameters provided.

“We have already seen many event organisers working to plan their events innovatively and within the parameters of the protocol.”

The Federal Government released its own roadmap to bring back live music performances following last week’s meeting of National Cabinet.

Under the three-stage roadmap, the second stage will allow lower risk festivals, such as those with a single, outdoor stage, to go ahead while stage three would see Australia return to a ‘COVID-19 normal’ and allow outdoor and indoor festivals with strict control measures.

Both come under the caveat of the common operating picture – a colour-coded calendar tracking transmission across Australia – remaining green for 14 days. This means no state or territory would need to make targeted adjustments to their COVID-19 responses.

All events and venues will need to comply with state and territory restrictions. For more information, visit here.

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