Plett Rage 'absolutely can’t go ahead', says top SA professor
“Plett Rage should be cancelled or postponed. It absolutely can’t go ahead next month.”
So said Prof Lucille Blumberg, part of the Scientists Collective, a group of SA's leading medical scientists and academics providing the public with credible information on Covid-19.
She was responding to the news that Ballito Rage — officially attended by 1,900 matriculants — was a coronavirus superspreader event.
“The organisers may have had the best intentions with regard to enforcing Covid protocols but, in reality, there was no mitigating risk with that type of event,” she said.
Plett Rage organisers have halted tickets sales but have stopped short of calling off the event, which, in August, was postponed to late January 2021.
“It's with heavy hearts that we have received the news that many Ragers attending Durban Rage have tested positive for Covid-19,” they said in a Facebook post on Monday. “We cannot be sure at this time what impact this will have on Plett Rage. We can, however, say that we are in constant communication with the officials in Plettenberg Bay and will only act in the safety interest of our Ragers and staff.
“We will be making further announcements in the coming days.”
Organisers of Rage Ballito, which appears to have taken place mainly at Durban venues this year, said in a statement that they got the go-ahead from “the local health department and the Durban events department” before the event, having submitted an 86-page document outlining their Covid-19 protocols.
“We had to comply with more than 20 additional regulations to obtain approval, which was obtained,” they said.
This included daily Covid-19 pre-screening through the Keep. Out. Covid app, strict mask protocols, cashless payments, staff and performers wearing PPE and Red Frog volunteers enforcing Covid-19 compliance at every venue.
Despite that, many teens and at least four suppliers’ employees have since tested positive.
“We have sent several alerts directly to all attendees and their legal guardians they provided as next of kin and have supplied all contact tracing information to the Department of Health,” the organisers said.
The Rage events have brought the lives vs livelihoods debate into sharp focus.
“Easy to sit and pass judgment when you have a guaranteed salary every month,” Micaela Mclean commented on the Plett Rage Facebook post in response to calls to cancel the event outright. “These event organisers also have families to feed.”
Last week, before news of Rage Ballito coronavirus infections came to light, TimesLIVE asked Rage Plett founder Ronen Klugman if he was concerned about the health risk of staging the event, given that the Garden Route has been identified as a coronavirus hotspot.
“If I were not concerned I would not be human,” he said. “I don't quite think you understand the pressure some people are under in this industry just to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families. I personally know of people who have not earned a cent since March.
“The constant changing environment is very unsettling to us and our suppliers and the uncertainty about our ability to trade and earn a living causes more anxiety than you could imagine.
“So yes, I am concerned; I am concerned for my staff, for my suppliers for so many who are on their knees. And I am concerned for those who have no choice but to put their boots on and go to work in our industry, and risk catching the virus, some who are now sick in ICU ... some have died.”
On the question of refunds, Klugman is on record as saying that a 50% refund of tickets purchased is fair.
“Many events and concerts have offered little to no refunds,” he said. “Besides the eight permanent employees for the full year, we continue to have lease, deposits and other financial commitments. We are committed to using the funds to continue employment and supporting the industry.”
Last week Klugman said “a number” of those who had requested refunds — and could prove that they could not attend the late-January event for reasons including tertiary studies, a comorbidity risk or leaving the country — had received a 75% discount.
“In each instance we require evidentiary proof,” he said.