The Elevate entertainment and cultural celebration held on the Cahill Expressway this week has failed to lure capacity crowds as the surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to warn off Sydneysiders from large events in the new year.
In November, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the event would help get hospitality and tourism “back on their feet” but has fallen flat after COVID-19 hospitalisations surpassed 1000 and daily cases grow towards 25,000.
The event began on New Year’s Day and will run until January 5, with the Sydney Festival beginning tomorrow. All 30,000 free tickets issued for the event were fully booked within a week of becoming available last month, yet attendance numbers have not reached capacity following a surge of COVID-19 cases and the cautionary approaches being taken by many Sydneysiders to avoid exposure to the virus.
Elevate has included performances from The Wiggles, Marcia Hines, Peking Duk and Lime Cordiale, while also has offered panel discussions with Olympians Emma McKeon and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, NRL player Tom Trbojevic and netball goal shooter Caitlin Bassett. The event also included a light display created by 500 choreographed drones over Sydney Cove to tell a story of Sydney’s past, present and hopes for the new year.
The festival billed as a “celebration of what makes our city great” comes after NSW registered another 23,131 cases in the most recent recording period, rendering 1 in 4 tests positive. In the past four weeks, there have been almost 11,000 positive cases in the inner city, with over 125,000 tests administered.
Tickets continue to be released in line with reviewed venue capacities, which are still being booked. While the surge of Omicron deterred many from gathering for New Year’s Eve celebrations, large crowds are expected at the Sydney Cricket Ground ahead of the Ashes Test, which will begin today.
Last month, Mr Perrottet reintroduced mask mandates for indoor areas, public transport and domestic commercial aircrafts following a surge in cases prior to Christmas, as Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant continued to urge those experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 to keep away from public gatherings and connect virtually with friends and family.
Omicron has continued the strain on the health and aged care sector, with some frontline workers who are close contacts being forced to return to work prior to completing their seven days of isolation. There are presently more than 550 positive COVID-19 aged care residents in NSW, with interim guidance from federal authorities advising aged care facilities to roster on close contacts with no isolation period when shortages cause high impacts to services.