Ekka organisers have bowed to the inevitable and cancelled this year’s show as coronavirus restrictions show little sign of easing in time for Queensland’s biggest annual event in August.
While it marks only the third cancellation in the event’s 144-year history, the Brisbane Showgrounds may still prove to be a hub of activity in coming months, with RNA chief executive officer Brendan Christou providing further assurance his organisation stands ready to convert show infrastructure to emergency medical facilities should the pandemic escalate.
Christou said ensuring the health and safety of the Ekka community and the general public was paramount.
“This is the biggest worldwide health crisis in generations; these are very challenging and unprecedented times, and nothing is more important than ensuring the best outcome for public health is achieved,’’ he said.
“The RNA will provide every assistance to the Government during this public health emergency, including the use of our Royal International Convention Centre which can be transformed into a functioning hospital as required.
“Over the past 144 years, the Brisbane Showgrounds have been used to help the community in times of need, including being used as a treatment centre in 1919 for those suffering from Spanish Influenza to an evacuation centre for those impacted by the devastation of the 2011 Brisbane floods.
“The RNA is dedicated to providing all the assistance and support it can to Government and the health authorities in these ever-changing and uncertain times.”
The announcement about the fate of this year’s Ekka ends weeks of speculation about its future as coronavirus makes further disruptive inroads into the 2020 events calendar.
Established in 1876 and run by the RNA, the Royal Queensland Show, or Ekka as it is more affectionately called by locals, has run every year except for 1919 due to the Spanish flu pandemic and in 1942 when the Brisbane Showgrounds were used as a World War II depot.
Renowned as Queensland’s largest annual event that connects the city to the bush, the Ekka attracts about 400,000 people over ten days.
Agricultural shows large and small, including Australia’s biggest, the Sydney Royal Easter Show, have been early casualties as coronavirus infections accelerate and physical distancing restrictions are tightened.
Christou was hoping to hold off on making a decision until mid-June, giving organisers time to assess any possible improvement in virus transmissions that would provide some small hope the event could proceed in August.
When asked by InQueensland what had prompted today’s call, two months earlier than desired, Christou replied:
“At the moment it’s a day-by-day proposition, every day brings new stats and if you listen to the Premier and the Prime Minister it’s highly unlikely these restrictions are going to be lifted by August.
“And we also don’t know when the action for us to be turned into a stand-by hospital may be enacted, so this is the sensible thing for us to do to put the health and wellbeing of Queenslanders above the Ekka.”
Today’s decision comes as Queensland Health reports 921 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, with five deaths.
Only the state’s northwest, central west and southwest regions have recorded no positive coronavirus tests.Jump to next article