Australian comedian Celeste Barber (centre) flanked by models backstage at the Harpers Bazaar Australia show at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, March 12.

SYDNEY — The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival has cancelled its remaining 2020 program in the wake of Friday’s Australian federal government announcement of a ban on all non-essential public events attended by more than 500 people.

Although the ban is not due to come into effect until March 16, the festival said late Friday that it would cancel all remaining events, including seven runway shows over Friday evening and Saturday, more than half of them ticketed events attended by up to 1,500. The consumer festival, which started on March 4, attracts up to 400,000 people.

“In the interest of the health and safety of our partners, participants, team, volunteers and patrons, the festival has made the decision to cancel all remaining events, effective immediately as a precautionary containment measure,” said event publicist, AMPR, in a statement. Tickets will be reimbursed via event partner Eventfinda.

The VAMFF announcement came a few hours after the abrupt cancellation of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, which had been due to run at Melbourne’s Albert Park over the weekend.

At press time, the virus had claimed the lives of three people in Australia, with cases quadrupling over the past week to almost 200. Cases include Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, who were diagnosed with Covid-19 while staying on Queensland’s Gold Coast, where Hanks had been due to commence filming Baz Lurhmann’s new Elvis Presley biopic. The production has been halted.

Panic over the virus has also seen 600 billion Australian dollars, or $383 billion at current exchange, or 22 percent, wiped off the value of the Australian stock market over the past three weeks.

VAMFF is the latest coronavirus casualty of the Australian fashion event sector. Sustainable sourcing trade show Raw Assembly has postponed its April 7-8 event at Sydney’s Carriageworks venue.

After initially postponing the majority of its international speaker lineup for its 2020 Fashion Hub event in March, the Sydney-based Sherman Centre for Culture & Ideas announced Friday that the event — a series of keynote presentations and panel discussions — will move to a digital-only format, to be broadcast throughout April.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia organizer IMG has yet to clarify the status of its resort 2021 collections showcase, which is due to take place at Carriageworks from May 11-15.

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