Patron numbers at January's Summernats street machine festival, Canberra's biggest event since the pandemic began more than 20 months ago, will be scaled back to 20,000 a day under a COVID exemption plan thrashed out with the ACT government.
Event promoter Andy Lopez described the 80,000 attendance cap over the four days - the first time such a restriction has been imposed in the event's 30-year history - as "workable" and "sustainable".
"That will mean there will be between 20 to 25 per cent less people on site every day," he said.
"We've agreed with ACT Health that [number] is workable, and from a financial point of view it is borderline sustainable."
The record attendance for the event was 119,184, set back in 2017 and only a few weeks ago that appeared certain to be be topped given the huge build-up in expectations after the festival was suspended last year during the first wave of the pandemic.
However, those hopes have been dashed as the fast-spreading Omicron COVID variant has seen a massive upswing in positive cases recorded across the country.
On the upside, entrant numbers for Summernats have now exceeded 2500, which will be a new record.
Mr Lopez said that he was very much aware of the "changing landscape" that the Omicron variant had brought to discussions recently, and conceded that his event may have to adapt to different health requirements in the lead-up to the January 6 opening day.
"For argument's sake, if the chief health officer tells us that masks are going to help keep people safe at the event and allow us to continue, we will do it," he said.
"I'm not buying into the [mask] mandate or no-mandate arguments, but we do have to make sure we look after each other ... in a way that allows us to get together and enjoy ourselves.
"If a mask is a price to pay to get out and about, have some fun and look at some cool cars, we will wear a mask every day of the week."
Although Summernats is largely an outdoor event, with the popular burnouts held on an outdoor track, one of the huge attractions to car fans is the new "reveals".
These are the automotive masterpieces which have been covertly taking shape for years in workshops and private garages around the country, their owners focused on showing the cars for the first time at the largest and most prestigious street machine festival in the country.
A record number of "reveals" are planned within the main pavilion, and the big day usually attracts thousands of eager onlookers. In January, entry to that event will be strictly limited and, as an alternative, large screens will be set up so people can watch remotely.
"It will be the same with the burnouts," Mr Lopez said.
"We will manage capacity and we will communicating that to everyone - and are doing that already - that there will be capacity limits. We think patrons will be respectful of that."
"I think people are getting used to that; I think the general public don't want to be in a situation where it is overcrowded.
"COVID is in the community, we've all got to live with it. Canberra has the world's best vaccination rate and the public has done everything they can do to protect themselves, and I think they will continue to do that.
"It's the same with the burnouts; we will be streaming them all around the venues, so if you can't get to the hill because it's too crowded, then you can watch it on the screen in the main arena."
As case numbers of the Omicron variant ballooned into the thousands, and testing stations have become overwhelmed, ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said that, as a public health physician, she did have some concerns about the two key mass events coming up in the next two weeks - the New Year's Eve fireworks display over Lake Burley Griffin, and Summernats less than a week later.
"But we've been working really hard with these guys around how we can do this as COVID-safely as possible," she said.
"Summernats have been fantastic to work with; and yes, there is risk with events moving forward.
"We reduce that risk through risk mitigation ... we just have to mitigate the risk as much as we can."
Canberra-based Professor Peter Collignon, the head of infectious diseases at the ANU, said it was inevitable that an event the size of Summernats would lead to more cases in the ACT, but said that the territory was better placed than at any time before to hold a mass event.
"The problem is: when we would ever have big events? If we don't have events such as this now, when would we ever have them?" Professor Collignon said.
"We have a local population that is 98.4 per cent vaccinated and 90 per cent for most of Australia, and all the data we have to date indicates that people who are fully vaccinated and contract the Omicron variant are less likely to be hospitalised and are less likely to die.
"The advantage of these types of events is that it's summer time and much of the event will be held outdoors. Most of the attendees I would presume would be people aged between 20 to 40, who are less at risk of becoming very sick and going to hospital - unless, of course, they are not vaccinated.
"So those at most risk while attending Summernats are the unvaccinated."
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