By CAITLIN CROWLEY

A SURGING third wave of Queensland COVID-19 cases is on track to peak as primary producers from across the state descend on the south east in a fortnight, ahead of what will be the Ekka’s big return after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

While Andrew Sinnamon (pictured below) admitted there was “some anxiety” around the current situation within the Ag industry, the beef cattle steward and RNA Future Directions Committee member was adamant the overwhelming feeling was one of “great optimism” to get back in centre ring.

“A lot of people are keen to get back to Ekka. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our livestock to potential buyers across the country,” he said.

Andrew Sinnamon at the RNA Showgrounds

Last year some cattle were already on the grounds when the Ekka was cancelled for a second year in a row, incurring significant costs and major headaches for exhibitors and organisers alike.

“I know there are some stud masters who aren’t returning to the show because of that,” Sinnamon said.

“But on the whole I feel there’s a great optimism and people are keen to showcase the great produce that we have.

“Will that deter the majority? I hope not. The word I’m hearing is we want to get back out there, especially for interstate breeders.”

He said for a lot of rural people, going to the Ekka was their holiday and chance to catch up with old friends.

“It’s just a good way for them to get out and forget about their troubles for a bit,” he said.

“The mental health aspect to it is massive – a massive benefit.”

The Sinnamon family’s RL Pastoral Company cattle at Casino Beef Week earlier this year

Sinnamon’s family has been showing cattle at Ekka for decades and will be out to impress again this year.

“We’ve got unique genetics from the US and you can’t get them anywhere else, so we’re keen for as many people as possible to see them,” Sinnamon said.

“You might have the judge in the ring – but it’s the judges beside the ring who will be paying the money at the end of the day,” adding: “It’s a good way to show our urban cousins what a beast actually is!”

With just nineteen days until show time in Brisbane, the Chief Executive of the RNA has assured Queenslanders the “Ekka is 100 percent full steam ahead”.

“After two years without a show, we are looking forward to bringing back this beloved Queensland institution and reuniting the country and city in a celebration of agriculture,” Brendan Christou said.

“As we countdown to Ekka, we are monitoring the situation and working closely with Queensland Health to ensure we meet all Queensland Government health, hygiene, and safety requirements.”

Christou said masks would be encouraged in indoor areas, in line with the state’s most recent health advice. More than 300 hand washing basins and sanitiser stations will be made available throughout the showgrounds.

Guests will have to buy tickets online and nominate which day they’re coming so crowd numbers can be managed.

Beef cattle doing battle at Ekka. IMAGE: Royal Queensland Show.

Covid isn’t the only virus putting Ekka organisers on high alert this year, with the threat of foot and mouth disease (FMD) front of mind for livestock producers.

Just like those who are feeling sick are being advised to stay home, Andrew Sinnamon recommends anyone who thinks they could present a FMD risk to stay away.

“If you’re coming back from Bali, we suggest you don’t come straight to the Ekka,” he said.

“Clean your shoes, change your clothes, go through those biosecurity channels. If you’re feeling sick, don’t come. If you think there’s a risk, don’t put us at risk.”

Stud cattle on centre ring at the Ekka. IMAGE: Royal Queensland Show

Almost 6700 new covid infections were reported in Queensland in the last 24 hours, with 960 public hospital beds now occupied by people suffering covid or the flu.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the state government would take the advice of the chief health officer on any decision to enforce masks at the Ekka.

“At this stage it is not being recommended, but we encourage it,” D’Ath said.

“I support that move by the organisers of the Ekka to actually have free masks available for people as they’re arriving. We did the same thing at the State of Origin.

“Most of the Ekka is outdoors – but we do know, I’ve been to the Ekka plenty of times – it can get awfully congested, you get into sideshow alley and it can get pretty squished in there on busy days including People’s Day – so it’s just sensible to carry a mask with you and put a mask on, especially as you’re wandering around the pavilions.”

The Ekka runs August 6 – 14.

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