ROLLING COVERAGE: All the latest local news on COVID-19

  • CANCELLED, CLOSED, POSTPONED: See our rolling coverage from yesterday (Monday) HERE.

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>>>Local rugby may not be on at all this season

>>>Splendour's huge decision after 'careful consideration'

UPDATE, 4.35pm:

Nimbin Mardi Grass cancelled.

President of Australian HEMP Party and Nimbin HEMP Embassy, Michael Balderstone said: "We've reluctantly decided to postpone MardiGrass May 1-3 2020 due to the uncertain times surrounding the corona virus".

"The plan is to let things settle and move the dates forward once we are in the clear. Tickets will be fully refunded or carried over to the next MardiGrass."

He said the current government ban on large gatherings gave organisers no choice, but they made the decision before people made travel arrangements.

"So hopefully see you all later in the year, or at the worst, May 2021. We may do some MardiGrass events online over the Mayday weekend so keep an eye out for that as we go truly global."


UPDATE 4.10pm:

Guinea Pig show cancelled
Northern Rivers Cavy Society Inc. has cancelled it's monthly Guinea Pig show at Clunes on March 29th.


The event has been been postponed, due to COVID-19 outbreak.

We have been monitoring closely the recommendations of authorities for the last days and working to figure out the best outcome for our community event, supposed to happen in Byron Bay on the 21st March, as per press release previously sent.

The new date will be announced as soon as possible.

If you might require any other information from us, please do not hesitate to contact us here or on the 0404 935 856 (Jorge Patrocínio - CARNABYRON Organiser).

All performances at NORPA and Lismore City Hall between now and April 30 have been cancelled or postponed as follows:

Postponed - new dates to be confirmed
Ross Noble | Tues 24 March 2020
Backbone | Fri 27 & Sat 28 March 2020
Taylor Henderson | Sat 18 April 2020
World of Musicals | Sun 17 May 2020

Sleeping Beauty | Mon 30 & Tues 31 March 2020
The Choir of Man | Fri 3 April 2020

Box Office will make contact with ticket purchasers for the cancelled performances via email and/or phone. We'll be in touch with ticket purchasers for postponed performances when new dates are confirmed, which we expect to happen in the coming weeks.

This is a very challenging time for NORPA, arts workers and the wider industry. If you're able, you can support us by choosing a gift voucher for future use or a tax-deductible contribution instead of a refund. Your generosity and support will help NORPA survive beyond this extraordinary scenario.

UPDATE: 2.11pm

Ballina Shire Council 

Ballina Shire Council is taking extra steps to keep our customers and staff safe, these include:

  • additional cleaning and hand sanitisers at public entry points to our customer service counters
  • council staff and contractors sanitising touch points at our community facilities including our pools, gallery, indoor sports centre, and airport
  • posters in public spaces to provide advice on NSW Health information regarding hand washing and hygiene
  • a link to the NSW Health website on Council's website.

Protecting council staff

  • To protect the health of our frontline staff, if you are feeling unwell please avoid our customer service centres, including the main Customer Service Centre (40 Cherry Street, Ballina), Visitor Information Centre and our Community Facilities.
  • If you are unwell and require assistance with a council transaction or enquiry please email or telephone 1300 864 444 for assistance. 


Lone Goat Gallery

In light of the COVID -19 pandemic, Lone Goat Gallery will temporarily close for two weeks (from 17 March 2020).

Their forthcoming exhibition by Hannah Cutts - Buoys will be Buoys - is postponed.

Information about the operations of the Gallery in the days and weeks ahead will be posted on the Gallery website and social media.

Old & Gold Festival

In line with current advice, the award-winning, annual Old & Gold Festival has been postponed (not cancelled).

So keep your stuff in the garage a little bit longer! A new date will be announced, once the COVID-19 emergency is over.

"Please keep in mind, local businesses are doing it tough at the moment and with the cancellation of many much loved local events & festivals, things are going to be even tougher. Please support our community - stay safe, keep calm and shop local!"

UPDATE: 12.40pm

Winter Whales
The Byron Bay Winter Whales ocean swim classic has been cancelled for 2020.  The event, planned for May 3, raises funds for local organisations each year. 

In a statement, organisers said: "we are disappointed to announce that due to national restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2020 Big Swim ... has been cancelled".

"We are grateful to all our entrants, to our wonderful sponsors and supporters.

"We look forward to seeing everyone ready to swim on the first Sunday in May, 2021."

Athletics titles
Three members of Byron Bay Runners were set to compete at the Australian Track and Field Championships, which were scheduled to be held at Sydney's Olympic Park later this month.

But the national titles have been cancelled. 

Elliott McGaughran, Bailey Crabtree and Finn Crethar had each qualified for the event.

Athletics Australia last week announced the junior divisions were cancelled while seniors (U20, Open and Para) would be postponed. 

UPDATE: 12.15pm

Splendour in the Grass

SPLENDOUR in the Grass 2020 is being rescheduled to Friday, October 23, Saturday, October 24 and Sunday, October 25 at North Byron Parklands.

In response to the Federal Government's ban on public gatherings in excess of 500 people, the 20th anniversary edition of the festival has been moved to new dates in October.

"Health and safety is our number one priority," organisers said.

"After careful consideration and consultation with our artists, crew and stakeholders, in these unpredictable times we have decided, as a precautionary measure, to move Splendour in the Grass 2020 out of the winter months."

UPDATE: 11am

Food festival cancelled

LOCAL industry group Northern Rivers Food has confirmed that the 2020 Northern Rivers Food Harvest Festival has been cancelled.

Chairwoman Pam Brook said the COVID-19 pandemic was a "fast-moving and complex situation with many known and unknown factors".

"Responding to the Australian Government's advice over recent days concerning COVID-19 and large events, Northern Rivers Food reluctantly decided to cancel the 2020 Harvest Festival," she said.

NRF executive officer, Allison Henry, said it was "incredibly disappointing".

"We know that the Harvest Festival is a much anticipated annual celebration of the region's fantastic growing food and beverage scene," she said.

"NRF's focus in the coming weeks and months will be on an Eat Local Love Local campaign.

"We urge the Northern Rivers community to keep supporting our local farmers, producers, cafes and restaurants. We're all in this together!"


Woolworths and Coles

Woolworths will shut all its stores early on Wednesday night, in order to replenish stock decimated by coronavirus panic buying

Woolworths has announced it will close its stores at 8pm on Wednesday March 16 in order to give its teams a chance to replenish stock.

Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said in a press conference the company "not have a concern about the supply" of product.

Coles also announced new measures to keep stores stocked during the coronavirus outbreak, including hiring 5,000 more casual staff and suspending home delivery.



Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson said the cancellation of Bluesfest 2020 will see many businesses "feeling the pinch".

The five-day event was expected to attract 100,000 people during the Easter weekend, but organisers were forced to cancel it due to the national reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As part of a study commissioned by the festival, the event attracted $83.5 million into the New South Wales economy, and of that, $35.5 million was spent in local Byron Shire area with a total of $59.1 million spent in the Northern Rivers region.

Read more here.


What local cafes are doing

As workplaces across the Northern Rivers prepare to protect staff from coronavirus, cafes are among the first businesses to take action.

Flock in Lismore announced they have "removed table cutlery, sugar, S&P, bottled water, drinking glasses and takeaway containers and cutlery from public areas to minimise the risk of contamination."

Others, including Scratch Patisserie at Mullumbimby are accepting contactless payment only.

Read more here.


Get ahead of the game by acting now on coronavirus

RURAL and remote Australians can get ahead of coronavirus by immediately implementing simple hygiene and social distancing tips to help limit its spread, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) urged today.

"Our take home message is to start implementing social distancing now to slow the spread of coronavirus" RDAA President, Dr John Hall said.

"This includes avoiding non-essential travel and large gatherings.

"Slowing the spread of COVID-19 will reduce the peak demand on our rural and regional health services as they brace for the surge.

"Those in rural and remote Australia can further protect their communities by helping to limit unnecessary movement between their towns.

"We anticipate that, depending on how things progress in the coming weeks and months, the Government may move to put in place additional restrictions anyway - so it is good for rural and remote Australia to be ahead of the curve.

"Crucially - if you know you have been exposed to the virus, or you think you may have been - please do not turn up to your local general practice or hospital unannounced."


• first ringing the coronavirus Health Information Line (1800 020 080) for advice. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.

• alternatively, contact your local GP or hospital - but please ring them first, rather than turning up to the waiting room. They will be able to give you advice on what action to take. If they feel that they need to see you in person, it will give them time to get infection control measures ready.

"Given a global shortage of test kits, the Federal Government has advised that testing for coronavirus is only available if your doctor decides you meet the following criteria:

• you have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever

• you have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever

• you have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause

"If you are eligible for the Government's new Medicare telehealth measures, we encourage you to use this service by contacting your local GP by telephone or video-conferencing. This will limit the need to visit your GP or hospital, and minimise the risk of infection.

"Bulk-billed telehealth consults are available for:

• those in home isolation or quarantine as a result of coronavirus

• non-coronavirus related consultations for people at higher risk - including people aged over 70, people with chronic disease, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50, people who are immunocompromised, those who are pregnant, and parents with babies

"We can all make a big impact in slowing the spread of coronavirus, if we look out for each other and implement some basic personal hygiene techniques and social distancing now. This includes:

• staying home as much as possible, and away from public spaces

• putting off large gatherings of friends and family

• as children can be key vectors of viruses, ensuring grandparents and other older people are careful in their interactions with children, and consider limiting contact with children

• washing your hands frequently

• trying not to touch your mouth, face and nose

• sneezing into a tissue and then putting the tissue in the rubbish (and washing your hands) - or sneezing into your elbow if you don't have a tissue

• keeping 1.5 metres away from others where possible and not shaking hands

• self-isolating if you are feeling unwell or suspect you may have coronavirus

"It is crucial that rural and remote Australians support each other, and their local health services, during this time. Following these simple tips will greatly assist in limiting the spread of coronavirus, and keep the health system available for those who really need it."