Two days before the start of Newcastle Fringe organisers have cancelled the festival due to the escalation of the coronavirus COVID-19 threat.
Festival director Phil Aughey made the announcement on Monday, saying while organisers had hoped to go on with the festival with precautions in place the "rapid escalation" of the virus situation gave them no other choice but to cancel it.
"It was a tough call to make but we [organising committee] all agreed it can't go on," Mr Aughey told The Star. "Even though we had been working on precautionary measures at festival venues, the rapid escalation of the situation on Sunday lead us to this decision."
The decision was made about 24 hours after Mr Aughey said in an email to media that the festival would be going ahead with "guidelines at each venue for patrons to follow, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser, a reduced program and reduced capacity seating to allow for optimum space between patrons".
A public announcement was made on the Newcastle Fringe Facebook page about 1pm on Monday stating the festival had been cancelled.
"Due to the escalation of this coronavirus, our responsibility to our audiences, our reputation and that of our sponsors, and government guidelines and policy, regretfully I must inform you that the 2020 Newcastle Fringe will have to be cancelled. I apologise for the inconvenience this is going to cause and I thank you all for the wonderful support you have shown us," the statement read.