Parkrun Australia has cancelled its Victorian schedule indefinitely because of mandatory Covid vaccination requirements.
Under Stage C of the state government’s roadmap, parkruns are classified as “physical recreation” in Victoria and require all attenders to be checked for their vaccination status prior to the event for it to go ahead.
Parkrun Australia said the “logistics” of mandating its volunteers to confirm the vaccination status of all participants would “fundamentally break” its simple operating model.
Parkruns are also on hold in New South Wales and ACT.
“As is the case in NSW, we will seek to reopen parkrun events in Victoria as soon as vaccination status is not a contributing factor,” it confirmed in a statement.
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has delayed the reopening of the state to unvaccinated people until 15 December, or whenever 95% double dose targets are met.
Marketing and communications coordinator, Scott Trickett, said he was “confident” the charity would be granted an exemption from the Victorian government to return soon.
But Victoria has yet to release a date for when “vaccination passports” will no longer be required for the majority of public life, including physical recreation. More than 90% of eligible Victorians have received a first vaccination dose, while just over 80% are fully vaccinated.
“We just want to come back, but we’re waiting for restrictions to ease based on vaccination,” Trickett said.
“Parkruns have a simple operating model, all our 440 Australian events are delivered by volunteers. To keep that model, we can’t put the onus back on them to check the vaccination status of every participant.
“All our events are open, in open areas – we have no way of controlling it. It’s one of the appeals of parkrun, but one of the barriers too.
“We could implement a program to ask everyone to show their vaccination certificate but there’s nothing to stop someone joining halfway through. And we don’t want to put volunteers in that position with people refusing to get vaccine.”
Parkrun has been reclassified three times in Victoria throughout the pandemic from an event, to community sport, to physical recreation.
“We’re struggling to find reasoning why we can’t reopen, we’re an outdoor activity, the risk of transmission is low,” Trickett said.
“We’ve always been supportive of the government’s process but we’re desperate to get back for a physical and mental benefit – social isolation has been exacerbated enough throughout this lockdown.”
Katie Johnson discovered running at the beginning of the pandemic, and quickly became a regular at Albert Park parkrun.
Between lockdowns, Johnson attended the Albert Park parkrun every Saturday morning with friends, where “hundreds of people” would rock up weekly.
“It’s feasible [she said of the mandatory vaccination requirement], but it would be hard to check. With vaccination certificates, they’re looking after one aspect of health but this is an important one as well.
“It’s really disappointing they can’t bring it back, it’s such a positive activity for the community … and I’ve definitely run less since they cancelled it. Plus, if you go to Albert Park on any given Saturday there’s hundreds running anyway, nobody is checking certificates.”
More than 90 parkruns operate across greater Melbourne and regional Victoria, usually attracting about 10,000 runners every weekend.
In place of events that had been suspended in Victoria and NSW, parkrun Australia has been encouraging runners to upload their exercise times as part of virtual ‘[not] parkruns’ across usual run sites. More than 220 locations have logged virtual runs.
A spokesperson from Victoria’s department of health said fun runs could only go ahead if all attenders, including volunteers and runners, were fully vaccinated.
“Event organisers must check the vaccine status of participants. This could be done at the start line of the parkrun event,” they said.
“Under Phase D of the roadmap [due to be released 24 November], restrictions will ease further … as Victoria gets closer to hitting 90% of people aged 12 years and over double dose vaccinated.”