Canberra is hoping for the best but planning for the worst this year, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr conceding that a return to normal major events still unlikely for the foreseeable future.
“It is highly unlikely that Floriade, or any other major events in 2021 and possibly 2022, will run in a pre-COVID or normal format,” Barr told The Canberra Times.
“All large events will continue to have to be reimagined in some manner to ensure we can reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading as much as possible.”
Barr said the effectiveness of a Covid-19 vaccine was still an unknown which meant “the idea of large-scale events where large numbers of people are crammed into small spaces will be off the agenda for the foreseeable future”.
National Convention Centre Canberra general manager Stephen Wood said the uncertainty made it hard for events to proceed.
“Once we have our first major conference and it goes ahead and it goes ahead well, that kind of provides that confidence for everyone else … It’s not that people don’t want these things to happen, it’s more about the risks involved, both financial and from a COVID perspective,” he told The Canberra Times.
But Wood was optimistic a successful roll-out of the vaccine could allow events to “really fully come back”.
“It would be great to get some clarity as to when realistically the government thinks that will mean people can begin to return to a more normal way of business and life,” he said.
National Folk Festival president Stephen Gallacher said they were hopeful a larger event could be held in 2022 after both the festivals in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled.