Performing arts restricted again

Local musicians and performers, along with those waiting on non-urgent surgeries, will be disproportionately affected by new COVID restrictions in NSW.

‘‘I think the first thing to say is that the government would not have introduced these new rules if it weren’t necessary,’’ said Finley Chamber of Commerce president, and Finley Country Club owner, Rick Shaw.

‘‘That being said, the new rules do seem to overwhelmingly affect performers, singers, and band members who have been hit pillar to post in the last two years.’’

Mr Shaw expressed his hope that the state government would introduce financial relief for artists directly impacted by the new decisions; which will see singing and dancing banned in most public venues until late January.

Several COVID restrictions were reintroduced on Friday to mitigate against the ever-spreading Omicron variant.

The self-described ‘‘minor’’ and ‘‘proportionate’’ decision will, according to Premier Dominic Perrottet, put a pause on elective surgeries at state run health services, in addition to banning singing and dancing at hospitality venues, entertainment facilities and major recreation facilities.

However, weddings will not be subject to the new rules, and major events can continue, providing organisers pass a risk assessment by health authorities — who may postpone said events at their discretion.

‘‘In circumstances where New South Wales Health deems that event to be a high-risk event, then we will contact those organisers and work through the current COVID-safe plans with you,’’ Mr Perrottet said.

It is unclear yet whether this will impact larger events for the region, such as the Good Times Festival at Tocumwal, scheduled for February 12 and 13.

The new restrictions are only expected to last until January 27, but as in the past, may be extended beyond that date.

Health authorities will also be reviewing COVID protocols for high volume events, but have asked organisers to continue planning for now.

Yesterday, NSW reported 25,870 COVID cases (based on PCR results only), 11 deaths, and 2186 COVID patients in hospital — with 170 of those in intensive care units.

Victoria reported 37,994 cases (PCR and rapid antigen), 861 in hospital, and 66 in ICU. There were 13 deaths in Victoria due to COVID.

Reports show there are 39 active cases in the Berrigan Shire, and 38 in Murrumbidgee local government area.

Total active cases have soared to 4175 in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District as of Monday evening, up from just 1271 last Tuesday.

Elective surgery is expected to remain on hold until early February, to reduce the strain on hospitals with high numbers of isolating staff or an influx of COVID patients.

Despite reintroducing restrictions, Mr Perrottet once again espoused the benefits of ‘‘living alongside the virus’’.

‘‘Our people and the effort we have made to go out, to get vaccinated, to get boosted, has been key to opening up our society, to living alongside the virus,’’ he said.

However, the Premier did acknowledge the reality of the coming weeks, which he claimed would be ‘‘difficult’’.

In the government’s modelling, NSW is expected to reach the peak of its outbreak in the middle of this month.

‘‘This is a challenging time, not just in New South Wales, but around the world, that the efforts that our people have made has kept New South Wales safe, has kept New South Wales open, and kept New South Wales strong.’’

Mr Shaw has urged any struggling business owners to contact the Finley chamber with any concerns or questions they might have.

‘‘It’s why we’re here,’’ he said.

‘‘The best advice we have is to talk to people. The world is not on your shoulders and please feel free to get in touch if you’re suffering or just need someone to talk to.’’

Call chamber on 5883 1310 or email

■ Anyone requiring crisis support can contact NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511, Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14, BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.