The Daylesford Sunday Market will close for two weeks. This follows community outrage at the lack of social distancing with increased school holiday visitors to Daylesford last weekend.

Social media exploded with commentary on the failure of school holiday visitors to observe social distancing and hygiene rules. There is concern that poor visitor behaviour could lead to local COVID-19 infections.

There were large crowds at the Sunday Market and in Vincent Street.

Vincent Street and surrounding areas were packed and a number of cafes had crowds on the footpath outside. Social distancing was difficult and often not observed.

Local cafes and traders struggled to manage social distancing and cleaning with the massively increased the visitor numbers.

This week the spike of community transmission in Melbourne heightened tensions for residents in Daylesford as most of the holiday visitors are from Melbourne. There are growing concerns that the rapid increase in infections in Melbourne hotspots will be difficult to control.

There are also concerns that any infections in Daylesford would have devastating consequences for tourism and accommodation businesses.

In response the Hepburn Shire and the SPA Country Railways considered making a number of changes.

  • Reducing stalls to food only which will include approximately 30 stalls
  • Relocating stalls to ensure that the left-hand side of the strip facing Raglan Street would kept clear to ensure room for people to pass.
  • Removing stalls at the front of the main strip to reduce the bottle neck at the Raglan Street entrance
  • Separating remaining stalls by a minimum of 8 metres
  • Removing the bottom section of the market to reduce the overall size of the market and encourage people to stay for a shorter period of time
  •  Maintaining other public health measures that are already in place, including signage, provision of hand sanitiser, frequent cleaning of high contact areas and social distancing markers.

But SPA Country Railways has now decided that for the period of the school holidays the crowds are too large to safely manage social distancing in the Market, so the market will close for two weeks.

This will have a big impact on stall holders who depend on income from the Market.  However, Barry Fell, Director Spa Country Railway made it clear that  â€œthe health and wellbeing of our visitors, particularly the members of our local community who rely on the market for the supply of their fresh food and produce, is our paramount concern.”

Concerns about media attention

There are some concerns that media attention is affecting Daylesford’s standing as a tourism friendly town. Steve Wroe, CEO of Daylesford and Macedon Tourism has commented: “Our region benefits significantly from tourism.  We enjoy an enviable lifestyle here, and many of us are employed because of our strong levels of visitation.” But he went on to point out that ” while we are enormously grateful to the people who come and stay with us, we are mindful of the concerns of the community, who feel at risk, due to the unprecedented visitor numbers.”

Council has put out a statement with Daylesford Macedon Tourism pointing out that in addition to the steps being taken at the Sunday Market, a number of additional measures are in place including:

  • Street signage to communicate with visitors the need to observe social distancing and practice strict hygiene measures
  • Supporting and informing businesses about their COVID19 obligations
  • Issuing statements to media outlets (including metropolitan media) and a continued social media campaign to communicate the need to practice appropriate social distancing.

There is also community concern that signage, information and training will not be enough without enforcement. That will require an increased police presence in areas like Vincent Street where there are high numbers of visitors.