Sep 21, 2020 —
The Premier of Queensland, Hon. Annastacia Palaszcuk MP
Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young
Deputy Premier and Minister for Health, Hon. Dr Steven Miles
First, I would like to acknowledge the work that has been done by the Queensland State Government in keeping Queenslanders safe from COVID-19. Tough decisions were made in regards to our health, and whilst standing by these decisions has been difficult, the Government has done an excellent job.
Some industries have been impacted harder than others. The road to recovery has not been applied to some sectors as equally as it has to others.
One of the most impacted sectors is the wedding industry. This is due to many weddings being cancelled. A primary reason given for cancellation has been the inability to dance. According to figures from ABIA (Australia Bridal Industry Academy), Australia has experienced a massive $1.82 billion-dollar loss this year between March and the end of August due to the Coronavirus impact. When also factoring in the amount lost due to wedding tourism in Australia, that figure of lost income rises to $3.32 billion lost. A fair share of this would belong to the Queensland wedding industry.
If a COVID-safe dancing reform is not implemented soon, there will be a massive amount of wedding suppliers without any income at the end of March when job-keeper payments finish. Even if dancing is again permitted by December, there will be a minimum of three months for wedding suppliers with no income. Most couples book weddings at least six months before their wedding day. The longer we delay the implementation and agreement of a COVID-Safe dance plan, the more at risk wedding industry suppliers are of finding themselves unemployed.
Plans for a return to the ability to trade are in place for many industries:
• Sports have been given a COVID safe operating plan to allow the return of sports to keep that industry going. The ability to fulfil the purpose of being allowed to return to the sports field was critical in allowing this industry to continue.
• Swingers clubs have been given a COVID safe operating plan to allow the return of adults to clubs to keep that industry going. The ability to attend a club to meet like-minded individuals and allow sex on-premises was critical in allowing this industry to continue.
• Dance lessons have been given a COVID safe operating plan to allow dance instructors to return to teaching dance to keep their industry going. The ability to teach dance was critical in allowing this industry to continue.
There are many examples of the changes that have been approved by the Government. Changes to industries allowing a continuation to serve their primary purpose though negotiations and implementation of COVID safe strategies. Sadly, the entertainment industry (especially the wedding entertainment industry) has not been allowed to discuss how we can fulfil our primary purpose. The primary purpose of a wedding entertainer (e.g. DJ or live music performer/s) is to get people up and dance. As dancing is not allowed, couples have chosen to either –
A) Cancel their wedding entirely.
B) Postpone their wedding until a later date.
C) Continue with their wedding and cancel the services of the wedding entertainer.
It’s no surprise that people choose to cancel their entertainment as the primary purpose they hire entertainment is for dancing.
At this stage, a petition has seen over 1200 signatures supporting the idea of having a dancing reform to produce a COVID safe dance plan.
The two main reasons couples are choosing to cancel or postpone their weddings are –
1) Border closures preventing friend and family attending. (This is a separate issue not within the scope of this letter).
2) Dancing is not allowed at their wedding
The issue of having no dancing, and the choice to postpone or cancel a wedding has a flow-on effect damaging not only entertainers but the entire wedding industry, including all suppliers involved with weddings.
I want to propose a way forward allowing weddings to continue with COVID-safe dancing.
Ideas to explore to allow for a COVID-Safe dance option could include (but not limited to):
Mandatory wearing of a mask when dancing
Maintain a distance at all times of 1.5m between guests on the dance floor
The above ideas are specific to the dance floor element, and work in well with future / existing plans implemented by venues including –
Collection and recording of names and numbers of all guests attending the wedding
Temperature monitoring of all guests before entry to the venue
Guests showing cold or flu-like symptoms not permitted to enter the venue
Drinks to be consumed only whilst seated.
With these (and potentially other options) to reform dancing at weddings, I believe the risk of transmission would be significantly reduced.
I acknowledge that history has shown that weddings have been a source of spread of COVID-19. However, I question the accuracy of blaming the transmission on the last hours of the night (dancing) and not during the pre / post-ceremony hugs and kisses, or the lively and often loud conversation over dinner and alcohol as people shout (spreading droplets) across the table for all to share. I believe pinning the transmission squarely on dancing is unfair and unfounded. I further acknowledge that, without a COVID-safe dance reform, COVID transmission is possible on the dance floor, but would like to see a safe agreement that will satisfy the requirements of the health minister, Government, wedding couples and suppliers.
I want to point out further that a wedding is a private event, not a public one. The current allowance for gatherings at a private home is 30 people, to the best of my knowledge, there is no authority to stop people dancing in the privacy of their own home. A wedding might take place with a maximum of 30 people and dancing can take place legally. This same situation, however, when put in a venue is illegal.
The danger posed when there is no action to come to an agreed safe compromise is that there will no doubt be people continuing to dance at weddings without any safety measures in place. Dancing without reform is far more dangerous than working with the industry to come to an agreed COVID-Safe dance plan.
I hope that we can agree sooner rather than later on the urgency for dancing reform for weddings to help to save our economy-boosting multi-billion dollar industry. I would love the opportunity on working with the state government working on the road to recovery to help the economy for our industry to rebound. I welcome discussions on how we can move forward together to keep wedding celebrations alive as well as look after the health and well being of the residents of our state.