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Will COVID trash The Bash?

Saturday, 10th July, 2021

By Cherie von Hrchner

With the Mundi Mundi Bash only weeks away, and COVID causing headaches in the capitals, some are asking whether the three-day music event could - or, even, should - be cancelled.
Organisers of the August 19-21 event, for which 10,000 tickets have been sold, are resolute, having just wound up the hugely successful Birdsville Big Red Bash.
“This event has gone ahead with full approval and attendance of Queensland Health with an extensive COVID Safety plan,” says event spokesperson, Kylie Edwards.   
“Protocols will be the same for the Mundi Mundi Bash with a system that has been refined at the Big Red Bash.  
“The team are working very closely with NSW to ensure all COVID safety protocols are met and patrons have a fun and safe event experience.”
But others aren’t so confident.
This week, NSW Health announced 38 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, the highest number of cases in a 24-hour period for over a year, prompting the Australian Medical Association’s president Omar Khorshid to declare that NSW should lockdown hard “otherwise we will see a disaster.”
AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen, warns that overconfidence is ill-advised.
“The current COVID-19 situation in Greater Sydney is very serious and we are concerned by the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant,” she says.
“The regions have not been exposed so far, but we are mindful of the impact the disease would have particularly in areas with limited healthcare access.
“Thus we need to protect regional and rural NSW.
“We support NSW Health in evaluating the risk these events present and encourage public health officials to look closely at these events in coming days and weeks.”
Organisers of the Mundi Mundi Bash say the event will feature COVID marshals ensuring that punters maintain social distancing, contact tracing technology, dedicated medical staff (doctors, nurses and paramedics), COVID testing by pathologists and even an isolation facility should anyone become sick.
But none of these measures address the concerns of Wilyakali woman, Sandra Clark, who is more worried about the resident communities than the attendees of the festival.
“My concern is the amount of people that’ll be coming into Broken Hill,” she says. “I heard between 10,000 and 15,000 people are expected, from all states of Australia.
“Our indigenous communities have chronic health problems already, not just among the elderly but young people too, and I’m worried that if COVID came to Wilcannia or Menindee it would spread like wildfire because we’re close communities.”
The potential for the Mundi Mundi Bash to become a “super spreader” was brought into sharp relief at Birdsville, with high-profile artists Kate Ceberano and Ms Clark worries that not every one of the 10,000 ticket holders will be so cautious.   
“With the different strains of COVID that are going around, there’s a danger it could be brought out here to country because people travelling through will be using petrol stations, fast food areas, supermarkets,” she says.
“I can’t help but wonder if the Broken Hill community is ready for that. I know it will generate money, but there are things we need to weigh up regarding the health of our communities.”
A spokesperson for Broken Hill City Council says organisers of the Bash “have been in regular contact with Council” and the Local Emergency Management Committee.
“Both Council and local businesses are doing all they can to prepare for the influx of tourists,” the spokesperson said. “Business meetings facilitated by Council have been very well attended ... We’ve discussed everything from ordering extra food and petrol through to having more cash available in ATMs.
“It’s been extremely encouraging to see how proactive local businesses have been regarding preparation, and just generally taking advantage of the Bash coming to town.”
The spokesperson said the organisers were continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation, “but we haven’t had any indication that they are considering cancelling
at this stage”.
“The Mundi Mundi Bash is going ahead,” Kylie Edwards firmly declares, “and the event team will roll out from Birdsville to Broken Hill ready to stage another event that sets the gold standard for COVID-safe festival going.”
Whether Birdsville’s COVID Safety Plan was a success remains to be seen. But Sandra Clarke isn’t taking any chances, stocking up on provisions so that she can remain indoors for the weekend of August 19-21.
“If COVID wasn’t around, it would be a wonderful opportunity for us to promote our community, but we can’t turn back time,” she says.
“It’s here and, if it gets a hold, it could wipe out a lot of our people.”

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