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Australia and NZ announce first insurance schemes

After more than 18 months of lobbying, Australia and New Zealand have announced country-first insurance schemes for live music.

In Australia, the Victorian government yesterday (14 November) announced plans to launch a 12-month pilot scheme that will insure up to AUS$230 million (€148m) of events.

Subsidised by the government and delivered by the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA), the cover will insure concerts, festivals, sporting events and conferences “against cancellation due to public health measures, or where events have reduced capacity due to restrictions”.

Organisers who have taken out the cover will receive 100% of the event’s declared value if the event has to be cancelled for the aforementioned reasons, or 50% of the event’s declared value if the event goes ahead with reduced capacity (or the organiser chooses to cancel the event because of those capacity restrictions).

The insurance will be available in December 2021 and more information can be found here. The premium is rumoured to cost 2% of the declared value of the event.

“For music lovers, it means your favourite festivals will be up and running again, and you’ll be able to book your tickets with confidence – and for industry, you’ll be protected whether your shows goes ahead or not,” Victoria premier Daniel Andrews wrote on Facebook.

The AFA has called the scheme a “game-changer” for the domestic industry but continues to call for a national solution

The Australian Festival Association (AFA) has called the scheme a “game-changer” for the industry but continues to call on other states and the federal government for a national solution.

“The inability to insure against Covid-related cancellations and restrictions has been a huge barrier to festivals getting back to business,” says AFA MD Julia Robinson.

“Health measures such as restrictions on gatherings and lockdowns, while necessary, often come with little or no notice making it difficult when festivals are months and years in the making. Access to a product that allows organisers the certainty to balance risk and safety with commercial reality would address this market failure, and it’s needed across the country.”

In addition to the scheme, the Victorian government has announced a $20m Live Music Restart package to bolster the recovery of the live music sector.

Music venues will benefit from a $8m programme to recruit and train new staff, invest in CovidSafe infrastructure and get more musicians and industry professionals back to work.

While music festivals and events will receive a leg up with $8m to help them recover from the uncertainty and impact of rescheduled and cancelled events due to the pandemic. A further $4m will bring music performances to the CBD and inner-city, complementing a previously announced $5 million for regional and outer-suburban events.


The support comes after Victoria’s sixth lockdown ended last month, with further restrictions on venue and festival capacity limits set to be scrapped in late November once the state has reached its 90% fully vaccinated target.

According to the AFA, “Victorian audiences usually enjoy over 150 music festivals each year, and just a handful have managed to get their gates open since the pandemic started”.

On 30 October, the state hosted Play On Victoria as its first ‘Covid Safe Test Event’, welcoming 4,000 people back to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl to watch Amyl and the Sniffers, Vika and Linda, Baker Boy, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Grace Cummings.

In New Zealand, the government recently announced that it will cover 90% of “unrecoverable costs” for paid, ticketed events with audiences of more than 5,000 vaccinated people, if organisers are forced to cancel or postpone due to Covid-19 public health measures.

Eligible events must implement the use of vaccine certificates, take place live and in-person, and have been in the market prior to the announcement of the scheme, according to the government’s criteria.

They will also have to be run by New Zealand organisations and not already be funded by other government sources such as the majors events fund or the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

The NZ government will cover 90% of “unrecoverable costs” for paid, ticketed events with audiences of more than 5,000

It will cover “actual direct costs” and organisers will have to agree to honour eligible costs incurred by suppliers.

The scheme will pay out for any events operating under alert level 2 or higher, or under the new traffic light scheme any events in an area under the new ‘red level’, or in a localised lockdown. At least 50% of the tickets will have had to be sold in order to qualify.

The event date must be scheduled to begin between 17 December 2021 and 3 April 2022 and organisers can only apply once for cancellation and once for postponement for an event.

The scheme, which is now live, has been welcomed by promoters of major events such as Rhythm & Vines (scheduled for December 2021) and Electric Avenue (slated for February 2022) but there are calls for smaller events to be included.

Insurance schemes have already been announced in the UK (£800m), Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m), Norway (€34m) Denmark (DKK 500m), France and Estonia (€6m).

 


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Australia set to gain two major rock festivals

Australia is set to gain two new rock festivals in 2021 and 2022.

Leading Australian promoter Destroy All Lines is bringing a two-day alternative music festival to Victoria this winter.

Knight & Day will take place at Kryal Castle (Australia’s only medieval adventure park) in Ballarat between 30 and 31 December 2021.

According to the festival, attendees will be able to enjoy “a mesmerising maze, medieval performances, dungeons, torture museums, knights towers, secret dragons and a labyrinth,” alongside full-band and acoustic performances, as well as DJ sets.

Parkway Drive, Polaris and Alex Lahey are set to headline the event.

Early Bird pre-sale tickets are available on Tuesday 21 September at 10:00 AEST. Camping is not available. Find out more information here.

“The time was right to introduce a new summer festival, one which will appeal to a wide cross-section of rock fans”

Australian rock fans can also look forward to the inaugural edition of Uncaged, produced by Silverback Touring.

The East Coast touring festival will feature “a diversely curated blend of hard rock, punk [and] metal” acts, exclusively from Australia and New Zealand.

The three-city run will kick off in Brisbane showgrounds on Saturday 22 January 2022 before stopping off at Melbourne’s Coburg Velodrome (Saturday 29 January) and Sydney’s Olympic Park (Saturday 12 February).

Danny Bazzi, head of Silverback Touring, said in a statement today (15 September): “The time was right to introduce a new summer festival, one which will appeal to a wide cross-section of rock fans.”

The first line-up announcement for Uncaged will be made next Wednesday 22 September. Tickets are yet to go on sale. More information can be found here.

 


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Michael Gudinski to receive state funeral

Victoria, the home state of Michael Gudinski, will hold a state funeral for the late promoter, its premier has announced.

Gudinski, the Frontier Touring founder known as the ‘father of the Australian music industry’, passed away suddenly on Monday (1 March). Bruce Springsteen, Kyle Minogue, Live Nation, TEG and his longtime friend and business partner, Michael Chugg, were among those to pay tribute.

Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria, told press yesterday Gudinski’s widow, Sue, had agreed to a state funeral for her late husband.

“I think we will be able to come together in an iconic venue and celebrate his life”

“I went and saw Sue last night and offered her and the family a state funeral for an amazing Victorian,” he told local media. Gudinski was born and raised in Caulfield, a suburb of state capital Melbourne.

The funeral, said Andrews, “will be a celebration of his life”, with the details finalised in the coming days.

“It’s got to be Covid-safe, of course,” he added, “but I think we will be able to come together in an iconic venue and celebrate his life and the mark that he made and the legacy he leaves.”

 


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Australian festivals cancel early 2021 editions

A swathe of Australian festivals have cancelled their early 2021 editions due to uncertainty about future Covid restrictions on mass gatherings and international travel.

Unify Gathering, a three-day event in Victoria dedicated to punk and hardcore music, is the latest festival to cancel its 2021 edition, which was planned for March.

A statement from the annual boutique camping festival says: “We’d been hoping to have enough clarity to announce the festival today, with the view to have it take place in late March. However, without enough assurances that the event can go ahead in a safe and financially viable way, we don’t want to take any risks.”

Organisers say they plan to keep much of 2021’s previously announced line-up for next year’s edition. The all-Aussie lineup was slated to replicate the bill of Unify’s 2015 debut event, which featured the likes of The Amity Affliction, Northlane, In Hearts Wake, Thy Art Is Murder, Hellions and more.

“Without enough assurances that the event can go ahead in a safe and financially viable way, we don’t want to take any risks”

In place of a live event in 2021, the festival has partnered with hard rock radio network The Faction which will host a hard rock radio takeover, scheduled to take place between 15-17 January.

Victoria-based festival Golden Plains, similarly scheduled to take place in March 2021, has also been cancelled three months after the postponement of its sister festival Meredith Music Festival.

Next year’s edition would have marked the fifteenth iteration of the event, which typically takes place annually across the March Labour Day long weekend.

In a statement, ‘Aunty Meredith’ says: “The Space-Time Continuum has wibbled, and it has webbled, but it has not wobbled open wide enough to grant safe passage for Golden Plains this Autumn.”

“When favourable atmospheric conditions return, the full, rolled-gold, four-dimensional GP experience will land again. All dancing, all singing from the same songbook, in a close encounter of the Fifteenth kind. One more spin around the sun should do the trick.”

Golden Plains’ 2020 edition featured the likes of Pixies, Hot Chip, Stereolab and Sampa the Great and was one of the final large-scale festivals to take place in Australia before the pandemic took hold.

Back in September, Meredith too announced that it would not be going ahead as planned, noting that the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions made it impossible to hold the festival’s 30th-anniversary celebrations in its usual format.

“Until we can put on a festival that lives up to the expectations of our fans, we’re going to postpone. We won’t put on a second-rate event”

Elsewhere, the organisers behind country music festivals CMC Rocks Queensland have announced that the event won’t return until it can book international acts with confidence.

In a joint statement, Potts Entertainment, Chugg Entertainment and Frontier Touring said the ongoing pandemic and subsequent restrictions mean that the staging of the event is not possible.

“As such, organisers have today announced that the March 2021 festival will not proceed as planned and will instead be postponed to 2022,” they said.

Festival director Michael Chugg said organisers would not stage a subpar festival. “Everyone knows that CMC Rocks QLD is the place they go to see their favourite international and Australian country artists in action and discover new favourites,” he said.

“Until we can put on a festival that lives up to the expectations of our fans, we’re going to postpone. We won’t put on a second-rate event”.

The 2021 event will be postponed, and event organisers will instead focus on 2022.

This year’s event, which was due to take place in March, was cancelled a week out from the event after prime minister Scott Morrison banned “non-essential” gatherings of over 500 people.

The annual three-day camping festival, which has been running since 2013, usually takes place at Willowbank in Ipswich.

 


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Aus festivals receive share of gov’s $75m Rise fund

The promoters behind Australian festivals including Bluesfest, Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival are among the first recipients of the federal government’s AU$75 million Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (Rise) fund.

The fund is part of the government’s $250 m Creative Economy Support Package to help restart activities such as festivals, concerts, tours and events once it is safe to do so.

Music festivals in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria were among the first recipients of the Rise fund, with Byron Bay Bluesfest receiving $1 m for its 2021 event to run between 1–5 April over the Easter long weekend.

The event, which normally draws 100,000 patrons, was cancelled this year when Covid restrictions came into effect, weeks before it was expected to go ahead.

An economic impact report showed that the cancellation of Byron Bay Bluesfest deprived the state of New South Wales of over $200m and 1,150 jobs.

This week, Bluesfest revealed that it has dropped all international names from its bill and is debuting a completely domestic lineup featuring Jimmy Barnes, Tash Sultana, Ocean Alley and more. The festival revealed that four months out, 70% of tickets have been sold.

Other NSW recipients include Secret Sounds, the promoters behind Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival (both of which were cancelled this year), which will receive $1.5 m to develop a new festival ‘that would keep audiences connected while also reaching new audiences across Australia and overseas’.

“My message to everyone in the arts and entertainment sector is – we want you back out there doing what you do best”

Reportedly, the new festival will be among the additional events that Secret Sounds has applied to host at the Byron Parklands site.

In the first round, NSW has received $17.8 m which will go to 28 organisations while Victoria has received $20 m for 48 projects.

Successful applicants in Victoria include Melbourne International Arts Festival/Rising ($1.48 m); Melbourne Fringe ($275,000); and Castlemaine State Festival in regional Victoria ($172,900).

The arts sector has expressed impatience with the minister’s office over the time it has taken to announce the recipients. A full list is to be published by the Office for the Arts in mid-December.

“As well as generating jobs and income, the Rise fund means there will be lots of shows that Australians can go and see – and that’s good news for all of us after a tough year,” says minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher.

“And my message to Australia’s artists and performers, to backstage crew, to everyone in the arts and entertainment sector, is – we want you back out there doing what you do best, and Rise is going to really help that happen.”

The federal government has also published a roadmap for “reactivating live performance venues and events” in Australia. The guidelines break up the return to live music into three steps, though it delegates decision making on capacities to state jurisdictions. It projects an ultimate return to standing concerts only in outdoor and “mixed” performance spaces.

Festivals are also projected to make their return after the final step, with restrictions.

 


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Australia’s NSW to allow 5,000-cap country fairs

The government in Australian state New South Wales (NSW) will allow country fairs to host up to 5,000 people from January 2021, the second-largest attendance permitted at outdoor events since social distancing restrictions were imposed.

The Bowral Show, scheduled for 9 January at the Bong Bong Picnic Racecourse, will be the first event to welcome an audience of that size since the NRL grand final in October, which accommodated 40,000 seated fans at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium (cap. 83,500).

Deputy premier John Barilaro, who is also the minister for regional NSW, announced the rollback of restrictions recently in a bid to boost the economies of regional areas hit by the pandemic.

Safety measures will include social distancing at venues, controlled access at entry points throughout the show to minimise crowding, a limit to the number of attendees depending on venue size and the one person per four-square-metre rule.

The 5,000-capacity allowance has not yet been extended to other types of events such as festivals.

“The industry has a framework to deliver Covid-safe events using the Live Entertainment Industry Forum Guidelines, the same guidelines created with other leading promoters and arenas that has seen the recent return of crowds to sporting events,” says Australian Festival Association spokeswoman Julia Robinson.

“There is a long way to go for a sector worth $2.7 billion that employs nearly 10,000 full-time-equivalent workers”

“The easing of restrictions in regional areas is an important step for an industry that was switched off in March, however there is a long way to go for a sector worth AUS$2.7 billion that employs nearly 10,000 full-time-equivalent workers nationally.”

This week NSW and Sydney are enjoying a return to live with the month-long festival, Great Southern Nights.

The event, which is an NSW government initiative, will take place throughout November, Australia’s Music Month, in an attempt to “stimulate the revival of the live music and entertainment sectors and, in turn, the visitor economy in the recovery phase of Covid-19″.

The festival will host 1,000 Covid-secure gigs featuring artists including Jimmy Barnes, Amy Shark, Tash Sultana, Tones & I, AB Original, Vera Blue, Hoodoo Gurus Ruel, Lime Cordiale, Alex The Astronaut, Missy Higgins and Matt Corby.

Live music has also returned in part to regional Victoria, albeit under stringent restrictions.

Indoor venues remain closed but the state is permitting live music in outdoor spaces under several conditions; gig-goers must remain seated and are limited to tables of ten, which must be at least 1.5 metres apart from any other table. Band members are required to wear a mask, singers excluded, and must stand at least two metres from each other and five from the audience.

 


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Australia unveils Victoria’s roadmap for reopening

Victoria, the state at the epicentre of Australia’s Covid crisis, has unveiled its “Roadmap for Reopening,” which includes the return of the live entertainment sector.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the capital city, Melbourne, will remain under stage 4 lockdown measures until 28 September with some relaxation from 13 September, including a later curfew of 9 pm, instead of 8 pm.

The Roadmap for Reopening will require all entertainment venues across Victoria to stay closed throughout the first two stages of the plan.

Subject to case numbers, stage 3 will launch on the 26 October, permitting outdoor entertainment venues in Victoria to reopen with capacity restrictions in place.

Then, provided the state has no new cases for 14 days, the last step in the plan will be initiated on 23 November, when indoor and outdoor venues will open with density quotient and patron caps.

Outdoor entertainment venues in Victoria will be permitted to reopen with capacity restrictions in place on 26 October

Public outdoor gatherings will increase to 50 people and large events will be treated on an individual basis based on “requirements and epidemiology” at the time.

The state will then move to, Covid Normal, when there has been no new cases for 28 days (state-wide), no active cases (state-wide) and no outbreaks of concern in others states or territories.

It’s expected that all restrictions will be lifted at this point, which means that all entertainment venues can reopen with “safety measures and record-keeping” in place.

Chief health officer Brett Sutton said at a press conference all the dates stipulated in the Roadmap for Reopening are “indicative”.

The state has been the epicentre of the country’s second wave, accounting for 90% of Australia’s 753 deaths, according to BBC News.

Ongoing Coronavirus concerns have caused widespread cancellations during Australia’s festival season, affecting events including St Kilda Festival, Strawberry Fields, Loch Hart Music Festival, Festival X, Meredith Festival, BigSound.

 


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Cancellations sweep Australia’s festival season

A number of Australia’s major music events have been cancelled due to ongoing coronavirus concerns, putting a question mark over the country’s imminent festival season.

Australia’s largest free music festival, St Kilda Festival, is the most recent event to be cancelled amid uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

The Melbourne-based event, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year and is one of Australia’s oldest festivals, was scheduled to take place in February 2021.

However, Victoria’s capital city has been in lockdown for over a month and the state remains Australia’s biggest concern with 7,274 active cases. Melbourne is under the strictest measures including a night-curfew which was imposed on 3 August.

“We know this will bring disappointment to those who support the St Kilda Festival year on year and we too feel that sadness,” says a statement on the festival’s Facebook.

“Our thoughts are with those in the arts and events industries who work tirelessly to deliver the events we love and continue to feel the strain and devastation of cancelled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Elsewhere in the country, New South Wales festival Strawberry Fields has also called off. The Tocumwal event, which was due to take place in late November, has been postponed until next year.

Festival director Tara Medina said she felt it “inappropriate” to consider bringing thousands of people to NSW from primarily Melbourne and Sydney.

“We want to respect the space, health and wellbeing of the Berrigan Shire as well as the time of local emergency services who are already so busy fighting the pandemic day-to-day.

“Ultimately, in the current environment, even the best-laid plans can come unstuck”

“Normally our event is announced, and tickets sold out by this time of year. We really waited until the eleventh hour to see if we could work something out – even with a drastically reduced capacity – but we have to come to terms with the reality that it will not be possible until 2021.”

Earlier this month, Loch Hart Music Festival in Victoria was also cancelled – a decision that festival director Jayden Bath said was “heartwrenching”.

“Given the current state of things in Victoria this is unlikely to come as a shock, however, it is still an extremely difficult decision to make. Ultimately, in the current environment, even the best-laid plans can come unstuck. We can only run a festival that we truly believe in and that pays homage to the culture and community that has been built at Loch Hart 2018 and 2019,” says Bath.

Among the other Australian festivals that have been forced to cancel are: Victoria’s Queenscliff music festival, originally scheduled to take place this November; national dance and hip-hop festival Listen Out, originally due in the early autumn; and Queensland’s Caloundra Music Festival, originally planned for October.

Elsewhere in the country, the western states have been preparing for Phase 5, which could see the removal of the 50 per cent capacity for major venues and the two-square-metre rule, and a number of guidelines have been released in order to prepare the region for its return to live.

Western Australia is now in its fourth stage of lockdown easing, permitting all events except large scale, multi-stage music festivals. Unseated performances are allowed to take place at music venues and concert halls, with gathering limits only determined by the state’s two-square-metre-per-person rule. For the state’s biggest venues, however, a 50% capacity rule currently applies.

The state began its return to live with the first “post-restrictions” stadium concert, which took place in mid-July, with local musicians Crooked Colours, ShockOne, Slumberjack and Tina Says performing to over 2,000 fans as part of the WA Unlocked event at the HBF Stadium in Perth.

 


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Australia releases guidelines for return to live

Live Performance Australia (LPA), the trade association for the country’s live performance industry, has released a comprehensive set of Covid-safe guidelines to help facilitate Australia’s return to live.

The guidelines cover auditions, rehearsals and performances, as well as touring of live performances. The Performing Arts Connections (PAC) Australia guidelines for Covid-safe theatres, originally issued in June, have also been revised and updated.

Meanwhile, tailored guidelines for events of scale, such as large concerts and music festivals, are being developed through the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF).

“People in our industry are passionate about getting back to work and engaging and entertaining live audiences, but safety must be our top priority to ensure the well-being of our workers and audiences,” says LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson.

“As public health restrictions are eased in different states and territories, these guidelines will help the industry reopen, restart and rebuild following the devastating impact of Covid-19.”

The guidelines have been developed with industry input, reviewed by medical experts, revised based on that advice and endorsed by an epidemiologist. LPA also consulted with trade union Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) on the three guideline documents.

“People in our industry are passionate about getting back to work but safety must be our top priority”

Richardson says the live performance industry is also committed to working closely with state and territory governments on the implementation of the guidelines and the return to live.

“In addition to the emergency funding assistance that governments have provided to help our industry through this crisis, enabling our companies to reactivate and our performers to get back on stage in front of audiences is the best form of support they need. These guidelines provide the pathway for reopening venues and bringing our live performance industry back to life in the months ahead,” Richardson says.

Western Australia is now in its fourth stage of lockdown easing, permitting all events except large scale, multi-stage music festivals. Unseated performances are allowed to take place at music venues and concert halls, with gathering limits only determined by the state’s two-square-metre-per-person rule. For the state’s biggest venues, however, a 50% capacity rule currently applies.

The state began its return to live with the first “post-restrictions” stadium concert, which took place in mid-July, with local musicians Crooked Colours, ShockOne, Slumberjack and Tina Says performing to over 2,000 fans as part of the WA Unlocked event at the HBF Stadium in Perth.

Phase 5, which could see the removal of WA’s two-square-metre rule and the 50 per cent capacity for major venues, was due to be implemented on 15 August but has now been delayed until at least 29 August.

Elsewhere in Australia, Melbourne’s gradual reopening of nightlife is still on hold as the city battles a deadly second wave of coronavirus. Australia’s second-biggest city was put back into lockdown on 9 July after a localised outbreak of Covid-19.

The state has recently mandated wearing masks and tightened a stay-at-home order to reduce transmissions.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Live music markets hit as more cities lock down

The Philippines has become the latest live entertainment market to be put back into lockdown amid concerns a surge in new coronavirus cases could push the healthcare system to collapse.

Stay-at-home orders are now in place in Manila and four surrounding provinces for the next two weeks, prohibiting residents from outdoor activity except for going out to buy essential goods or exercising outdoors.

The country only just emerged from one of the strictest lockdowns in June but after reporting a record 5,032 new infections on Sunday (2 June), numerous medical associations urged President Rodrigo Duterte to toughen restrictions.

The capital city is home to some of the country’s largest venues, including the SM Mall of Asia Arena, which in lieu of live events has transformed into a mega swabbing centre.

Across the Indian Ocean, Melbourne’s gradual reopening of nightlife is still on hold as the city battles a deadly second wave of coronavirus. Australia’s second-biggest city was put back into lockdown on 9 July after a localised outbreak of Covid-19.

Melbourne has recently mandated wearing masks and tightened a stay-at-home order to reduce transmissions.

Parts of Leicester have been relinquished from local lockdown, allowing venues in Leicester City to reopen from yesterday

The state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, is responsible for over half of Australia’s 18,300 recorded cases.

After Victoria recorded another 671 cases of coronavirus on Sunday and seven deaths, premier Daniel Andrews announced a “state of disaster”.

On Sunday (2 August), Andrews introduced new rules including a night-time curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am for the next six weeks.

In the UK, parts of Leicester have been relinquished from its local lockdown, allowing venues in Leicester City to reopen from yesterday (3 August). Though venues such as The Shed will remain closed, writing “Music venues still aren’t in the clear, and we’re aiming for September!” on its Facebook page.

English venues were preparing to reopen from 1 August but will no longer be able to do so after the government pushes back the next step of lockdown easing by at least two weeks.

Elsewhere, Botswana has reinstated lockdown in the capital, Gaborone, for two weeks after recording 30 new cases of coronavirus. The order took effect last Thursday (30 June).

“Essential services will operate at 25% capacity, there will be no movement within the Greater Gaborone Zone without a movement permit and movement to and from Greater Gaborone Zone will be void with immediate effect,” says Kereng Masupu, the coordinator of the presidential Covid-19 taskforce.


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