NUMEROUS South Coast surf lifesavers, including Mollymook's Sam Zustovich and Payton Williams, will miss out on the chance to claim national gold medals this year, after the cancellation of the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.
At the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, they advised against holding non-essential, organised public gatherings of more than 500 people - which forced Surf Lifesaving Australia's decision.
The annual championships were due to be held on the Gold Coast in Queensland from April 18-26, with more than 6000 competitors - including Nowra-Culburra's Kirsty Higgison, family, friends and spectators expected to attend the event.
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"We have been monitoring the situation closely and adhering to the advice of the Federal Government and other relevant authorities since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus," SLSA president Graham Ford AM said.
"Following the updated information and advice from the Federal Government, and in consideration of our members and the wider Australian community, the SLSA Board have made the decision to cancel the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships for this year.
"The health and wellbeing of our members, volunteers, officials and staff are paramount and SLSA also recognises that an event the size of the Aussies, has the potential to attract more than 17,000 people to the event and we feel that it is important that we play our part in reducing the spread of the virus out of respect for all Australians and the health care system.
"In uncertain times, we wanted to provide some clarity and certainty to our members who have been planning and preparing for this event."
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Ford said that it was a decision that was not taken lightly given how celebrated the Aussies event is by the SLSA membership, but the board acted quickly following the Government's announcement so that clubs and members could make appropriate plans.
The SLSA medical advisory panel of Dr Natalie Hood, Dr Ned Douglas, Dr Lucinda Remilton and Dr Paul Hotton support the decision of the SLSA Board.
"Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) has been in regular consultation with the Australian Government (Department of Health), other health agencies and medical representatives since the outbreak to monitor and review the evolving situation," said a SLSA medical advisory spokesperson.
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"The SLSA medical group supports these actions to slow the rate of transmission of the virus, which will reduce the risk of SLSA members and the general public being exposed to, and potentially contracting the COVID-19."
Surf Life Saving Australia will arrange refunds for all entry fees already paid for the 2020 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.
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