Arts organisations around the country are holding their collective breath as COVID case numbers soar thanks to the Omicron variant.

On 17 December NSW recorded its highest daily case totals since the start of the pandemic, with 2,213 new infections. Victoria also reported 1,510 new cases, though this was a reduction from the previous day. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard revealed on Wednesday that government modelling suggested NSW could reach 25,000 new cases per day by the end of January.

In the UK, where daily numbers have skyrocketed to 88,376 cases, 12 West End shows have had to be closed down temporarily due to COVID outbreaks among cast and crew.

The explosion in case numbers is of great concern for arts organisations in NSW, with a slew of festivals and productions in full swing since the state’s reopening in mid-October, and more due to open in the coming weeks. It comes as nearly all restrictions have been lifted in NSW: masks are now only required on public transport and in some personal care settings, QR code check-in requirements have been removed from all but a few designated high-risk venues, and unvaccinated people now have the same freedoms as the fully vaccinated.