Coronavirus disrupts the North

Coronavirus forces event cancellations in the North


Major events across the North have been cancelled or delayed in the wake of mass-gathering bans put in place to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

The Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival is among the events cancelled.

The Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival is among the events cancelled.

MAJOR events across the North have been cancelled or delayed in the wake of mass-gathering bans put in place to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

It comes as North Queensland recorded its first two cases of the virus, including a 69-year-old Townsville resident who returned home from France on Tuesday.

He was tested on Thursday, before flying to Wellington, New Zealand with his wife on Friday. He received a phone call advising of his positive status on Saturday and remains in isolation in his hotel.

A worker for South 32's Cannington Mine, south of McKinlay, also tested positive to coronavirus while he was on time off. He is being dealt with by the Townsville Public Health Service.

Acting on advice from the chief medical officer, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has banned static, non-essential mass gatherings involving crowds over 500 which came into effect today.

It has forced the cancellation of major events in the North including the annual Julia Creek Dirt 'n Dust festival, which was to be held in April.

The flagship event, in its 27th year, attracts thousands of people to the outback town and will be a major economic hit from the community, still recovering from the 2019 monsoon.

The 2020 NQ Games, to be held in Townsville, from April 10-13 was expected to attract about 5000 athletes from across North Queensland and their families.

NQ sports foundation CEO Steve Farrell said meetings were being held with council and they were taking advice from the state government with an announcement expected by close of business Tuesday.

"Normally we were anticipating about 5000 athletes involved. We have never come across anything like this before," Mr Farrell said.

The annual Easter at Einasleigh event, which was to run from April 9-12, including a rodeo and horse racing has been cancelled.

Einasleigh Race Club secretary Laurell Royes said they had met with relevant authorities and the risk Covid-19 posted made the outcome unavoidable. He said the event would be back in 2021.

And the 42nd annual Charters Towers Country Music Festival on May 3-5 looks likely to be postponed or cancelled.

More than 500 delegates were expected to attend the annual Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association (NTCA) industry conference in Alice Springs on March 26-27.

Organisers said they had decided to postpone the conference due to the rapid and unpredictable nature of advice around Covid-19.

"We have had a number of cancellations in the last 24 hours due to travel bans being placed on registered delegates by the organisations they work for," they said.

"This is expected to increase as more companies enforce travel bans and as a consequence reducing numbers moving forward will make the event, even a downsized event, financially difficult.

"All registrations as they exist now will be carried over to the 2021 event."

The AGM will still go ahead on March 26 for NTCA members only, with a scaled down post event for those in attendance. The ladies lunch on March 26 may also go ahead.

And the Northern Australian Food Futures conference, which was scheduled to take place in Darwin from April 27-30 has also been postponed.

With many delegates, sponsors and exhibitors impacted by travel bans and restrictions, the NT Farmers Association and Ord Co decided to postpone the event to a date to be set at a board meeting on Tuesday.

The Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association is also postponing its northern conference, which was scheduled to be held in Rockhampton from April 15-18.

Innisfail Field Days organiser Wayne Thomas said the committee would meet tomorrow to discuss whether the May 21 event would go ahead, but based on current restrictions, it seemed unlikely.

The NQ Field Days committee met this afternoon to discuss if the event, to be held on May 14 and 15 at Julago would go ahead.

It was to make a comeback after a four year hiatus with new organisers, Rotary.

Deputy chair John Larkin said following advise from the federal government, council was meeting on Monday to discuss the future of such events.

Mr Larkin said he was unsure if a final decision would be made, but Rotary's advice was that it would be unwise to proceed with such events at this time.

"We've done a lot of work with new layouts and had a lot of things in place, but if the confidence is not there we will be better prepared for the next event and that's probably the worst case scenario," Mr Larkin said.

Innisfail's Feast of the Senses festival will go ahead on March 26-29, but with some amendments.

The 2020 River Feast market day due to be held on Sunday, March 29 has been postponed, but events expected to attract a smaller audiences like planned dinners, a wine night and farm visits, will go ahead.

James Cook University has postponed graduation ceremonies for students which were to take place in Cairns and Townsville in March and April.


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