Bluesfest latest event to be cancelled, more cases confirmed

BYRON Bay's Bluesfest music festival has been cancelled.

It's the latest event to fall under the axe over fears of spreading coronavirus.

Organisers made the decision this morning, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison banned mass gatherings with 500 people or more.

Some of the biggest names in the music industry - from Crowded House, John Butler and Patti Smith - were scheduled to perform at the event which would have been held April 9 to 13.

"It is obvious we will not be on this Easter. We are heartbroken as we believe we were presenting one of the best ever bills of talent for you," Bluesfest executive chairman Peter Noble said.

"I was in discussions right through last week with every headliner - they all said they're coming as long as nothing occurred to prevent them from doing so. That is the level of commitment that our artists have, and I am proud of that.

"We are now working through how to move forward and to give you details. I thank you for allowing us enough time to get everything in place for the best possible outcome for everyone."

The announcement did not include clarification on whether ticketholders would be refunded.

Crowds at Bluesfest 2018.
Crowds at Bluesfest 2018.

Dozens of other Gold Coast events have also been axed from the Gold Coast Film Festival, Somerset Story Fest and Corona Gold Coast surfing event.

It comes after an eight-year-old girl is among five new Gold Coast coronavirus patients as multiple events bringing thousands to the city are axed.

A 63-year-old man, 55-year-old man, 67-year-old woman and 40-year-old man have joined other confirmed cases in Gold Coast hospitals including movie star Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson. A 77-year-old Noosaville woman is Queensland's first coronavirus fatality - she died on Friday when rushed to hospital after flying to Sydney but she could not be revived.

At the weekend, Gold Coast Film Festival and Supanova Superhero Parade 2020 joined a growing list of city events ditched in a bid to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Organisers of the Australian Pharmacy Professional (APP) Conference, which brings 6000 attendees to Broadbeach, announced yesterday it would be postponed.

APP chairman Kos Sclavos AM said the difficult decision was made based on health and safety concerns.

"Our priority is the health and safety of our community pharmacy workforce given they continue to be on the front line of the nation's response," he said.

"The ongoing disruption caused has resulted in global travel restriction policies which are impacting upon speakers and the trade exhibition.

"The recently announced cases of coronavirus on the Gold Coast, and need to preserve the health and wellbeing of our frontline pharmacy workforce has resulted in the postponement."

Mr Sclavos said organisers relied on the health advice of state and federal health departments.

He said the cancellation would impact the city's economy and "it saddens us deeply to take this action".

Given COVID-19 is a communicable disease, no insurance claim is possible.

The conference is now one of dozens across the city which have been cancelled, with new travel restrictions revealed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday meaning international visitors must remain quarantined for 14 days on arrival.

Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said he understood the Federal Government's measures in "challenging times".

"Passenger numbers at Gold Coast Airport have already declined and will fall further. At this time, our priority is the welfare of our passengers, employees and partners.

"We are confident conditions will rebound, but we have some tough times ahead."

Hotels including Avani and Meriton Suites have posted reassurances on websites.

A statement from Meriton Group Director Matthew Thomas promised "hospital-grade" cleaning of hotels.

Broadbeach was a relative ghost town during Supanova. Pic Mike Batterham
Broadbeach was a relative ghost town during Supanova. Pic Mike Batterham

"Housekeeping teams have been issued with hospital-grade antibacterial products and implemented additional cleaning procedures to ensure all individual suites are cleaned to the highest standards," the statement reads.

"Our staff may choose to wear protective face masks throughout the cleaning process.

"Please don't be alarmed, this is only as a precaution."

Magic Millions confirmed it would hold the annual Gold Coast March Yearling Sale over the next two days, accepting figures will almost certainly be down.

The sale will however be closed to the public, meaning only potential buyers and staff associated with Magic Millions and the vendors can attend.

"We will run the sale to the best of our ability under the circumstances we have," MM managing director Barry Bowditch said.

"We have a good amount of buyers' agents and Magic Millions Bloodstock staff that can give potential buyers an informed opinion on the horses if they can't get here.

"It's a great lot of horses here and in the circumstances, it's going to be a buyers' market.

"We will do our best to run business as usual and do our best for the vendors who have got the horses here in the order they have."

Queensland Breeders Association President Basil Nolan said it was imperative the sale went ahead, even if it meant diminished returns for vendors.

"It's a necessary event for every breeder in Queensland. We have to try and get it done."

Cabaret theatre Draculas confirmed it would stay open for the forseeable future, with director Paul Newman saying his team is having daily meetings.

"If we have to close we'll definitely do it, but we're trying to stay there as long as we can," he said.

"It's so bizarre, there are people trying to get in (past the 500 cap), and we had one of the best responses we've had to the show last night.

"What's interesting about it is people are just really letting go of a lot of steam, dancing in the aisles, cheering, they love it.
"People were relieved to be away from the bad news. Unfortunately the reality is you can't put people in close confines.

Arrivals to Australia must now quarantine for two weeks. Pic Mike Batterham
Arrivals to Australia must now quarantine for two weeks. Pic Mike Batterham

"This week will be critical. We're taking everything on board very carefully."

Actor Tom Hanks, currently isolated on the Gold Coast with wife Rita Wilson after testing positive, took to social media to reassure fans.

"Thanks to the helpers," he wrote, with a photo of a Vegemite breakfast and kangaroo toy.

"Let's take care of ourselves and each other."

Hanks was in the city filming for Baz Luhrmann's upcoming Elvis biopic, now indefinitely halted.

Crew members, including Luhrmann himself, are now believed to be in self-isolation.

Attendees at Supanova in Broadbeach on Saturday were well down.

Last year the comic and gaming convention based on science fiction, fantasy film, TV, anime was bustling with thousands of people - making it hard to move around.

But after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced mass gatherings of more than 500 people would be banned across the country from Monday, it was much quieter.

"We were here yesterday and it was so quiet," an attendee told the Bulletin.

"Usually you're pushing around to get anywhere but it's so chilled. I guess it's nice to walk around and not be squished. But it's not good for the vendors and places here to make money."