Netflix’s Byron Baes cast appear to flout NSW Covid measures in Instagram videos

Cast members of the Netflix reality series Byron Baes have posted videos to social media of people dancing to live music at a crowded Byron Bay venue in apparent contravention of New South Wales Covid measures.

Two of the show’s other stars have posted videos in the days after receiving positive Covid tests that appear to show them out in public.

Covid case numbers in the northern NSW health district have exploded since December, and staff at hospitals serving the Byron Bay area have reported they are under “extreme strain”.

On 10 January, two days after the NSW government reintroduced a ban on singing and dancing in hospitality venues, at least three cast members of the reality TV show about social influencers in the Byron Bay area – scheduled for broadcast later this year – were tagged in Instagram videos filmed at the night spot Casa Luna at a birthday party for one of the show’s stars, Hannah Brauer.

Footage posted to social media on the night shows patrons dancing to music provided by a DJ.

NSW public health orders introduced on 8 January ruled that hospitality venues must not allow singing and dancing on premises, other than by performers.

Two of Brauer’s co-stars, social media influencer Jade Kevin Foster, who has more than 1.2m followers, and former Bachelorette star Nathan Favro, are also seen dancing and are tagged in the videos.

Police confirmed they had received at least one report of an alleged breach of public health orders at the venue, but when officers attended the venue the following evening there appeared to be no breaches of Covid restrictions by either staff or patrons, a police spokesperson said. The investigation has been concluded without further action.

Brauer posted videos of the event to Instagram the following day, and on 14 January asked her 7,685 followers on Instagram whether she was suffering a four-day hangover, or she had contracted the virus.

On Sunday 17 January she posted: “Every day, pulling myself out of bed with Covid.”

Brauer did not respond to a request for comment.

On 13 January, Byron Baes cast member Elle Watson posted a video of what appeared to be a different dinner party at Casa Luna. Videos posted by Watson to Instagram show her standing among people who are dancing.

Watson did not respond to questions about the videos.

Casa Luna did not respond to a request for comment on whether the venue had complied with NSW health orders.

On Wednesday Casa Luna began advertising an electronic music event scheduled for Saturday, to be held outdoors with another local venue.

“One thing for sure rave is on!” the online promotion said. “Get your dancing shoes on, it’s gonna swing!”

The cover charge for the event is $30 or $50 but a note at the bottom of the promotion suggests certain social media influencers may gain free entry. The promotion signs off with: “We are a Covid safe event”.

After Guardian Australia approached Casa Luna for comment on why they were advertising an event involving dancing under the current ban, the venue announced on social media the event had been postponed due to “dancing restrictions applying to outdoor venues”.

As of 12 January, almost one in 10 people living in the Byron local government area had had a positive PCR test in the past three months.

Figures from the northern NSW health district show that the northern rivers’ cases almost quadrupled from 306 new cases reported on 31 December to 1,154 on 7 January.

The latest figures show 85.9% of people over 16 in the Byron shire are fully vaccinated, compared with the state average of 93.7%.

Independent Byron shire councillor Cate Coorey said any instances of people openly flouting rules meant to help curb the spread of the virus would be “morally unconscionable”.

Coorey said preventable cases of Covid were ending up in the region’s hospitals, which were already at capacity.

“I feel particularly sorry for people with other illnesses who need to be at hospital or need to have surgery but are being sent to the bottom of the list or not getting the treatment they need,” she said.

“Why would anyone be promoting an event that could likely worsen an already bad scenario?”

Two other Byron Baes cast members posted their Covid-positive status on social media after attending a huge private New Year’s Eve party at a Newrybar property about 16km south of the Byron township. Such gatherings were permitted under NSW regulations at the time.

The electronic dance duo Flight Facilities performed at the party and later posted on social media: “What a start to 22. Thank you for joining us to break the 21 hex, write CLAIMED in the comments if you got Covid and/or you broke your hex!”

Dozens of people responded with “CLAIMED”.

Among the more than 1,000 partygoers were Byron Baes cast members Dave Frim and Elias Chigros.

Chigros told Guardian Australia he became infected within three days of the party.

“Pretty much everyone who was out on New Year’s got it, there was a group of about 10 of us,” he said.

On 2 January Chigros drove over the border to Queensland and posted images of himself partying on the Gold Coast the same night.

Chigros said he had returned a negative rapid antigen test result before travelling to the Gold Coast and did not return a positive RAT until he returned to Byron Bay the following day, when he began isolation. It was another “two or three days” before he was able to obtain a PCR test, which confirmed his positive status, he said, a result which at the time required mandatory isolation for at least seven days from the date of the PCR test.

But on 9 January, four days after the PCR test, Chigros posted a video on Instagram showing him in his car, heading out for a surf.

“One week later finally leaving the house,” he said in the video. “I have to admit I have been doing some afternoon walks to try and keep somewhat fit.”

Asked whether the video showed he had not followed NSW Covid isolation rules, Chigros said: “I have hours of archive footage I roll out depending on what I wish to promote on the day – such as training, beach days etc.”

He did not confirm when the video was filmed.

Asked how long he had isolated for, Chigros said he wasn’t sure whether the isolation began after the RAT or PCR test result.

“But I just kind of waited until I was starting to be non-symptomatic and it was more than seven days from the RAT test before I started going out again and going to shop wherever else.”

Chigros, who has previously described Covid-19 as “the flu”, told some media outlets last week he had just recovered from the virus and was delighted with the result, having lost several kilos while ill. The former Love Island star called it his “Covid shred” body.

Frim confirmed he first tested positive for Covid-19 with a rapid antigen test on 3 January.

“I reckon it was definitely one of the New Year’s Eve parties I went to,” he said.

Frim said both he and his partner, fellow Byron Baes cast member Saskia Wotton, were unvaccinated, but this did not concern him because “I’m still alive”. Videos posted to Instagram in the days after appear to show Frim isolating and receiving deliveries of food.

On 7 January however, Frim posted a video showing himself out in public and maskless, saying he thought he was over the virus.

“I’m fucking breaking free and going to wash my sins off down at the beach,” he said in the video.

“I feel a bit wobbly but I’m gonna wash this thing out and have a test tomorrow and hopefully I’ll be negative.”

Prior to 12 January, NSW Health advice was that a person who tested positive on a RAT “must immediately get a standard PCR test from your nearest testing clinic and self-isolate until you receive a negative result”. NSW Health orders were changed on 12 January to treat positive RAT results as an official diagnosis and require isolation immediately.

The video shows Frim in a park near people, including children.

Asked about the video, Frim terminated the interview and did not respond to further questions about when the video was filmed and whether he had been out in public while potentially infectious.

Frim was also reluctant to discuss an Instagram post he uploaded on 6 January, in which he was holding a vial of ivermectin. In September the Therapeutic Goods Administration banned the prescription of the drug for off-label use after social media misinformation went viral about its unproven ability to fight Covid-19.

“Where did I get it, is it legal?” Frim asked in the video. “I 100% fucking don’t know and I don’t care really what’s legal and not.

“I don’t know if it’s gonna be the end of us but I feel like I’m dying anyway so may as well give it a go.

“But if you do know someone that’s got it, it’s probably not a bad idea to grab some.”

The TGA has warned that misinformation about ivermectin on social media could result in people administering dosages at a dangerous level, risking possible serious neurological side effects including seizures and coma.

“I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole,” Frim said when asked why he was recommending a veterinary grade drug which the TGA had warned against.

Netflix Australia declined to comment on any of the cast members’ posts.

Assistant secretary of Byron Central hospital’s Nurses and Midwives Association, Liz McCall, told Guardian Australia last week the hospital was at breaking point.

It has just 43 beds, and the more serious Covid cases are transferred to Lismore Base hospital 47km away, which is also under severe pressure according to an association delegate there.

McCall said she could not verify claims on social media from 11 January that four doctors and eight nurses employed by Byron hospital were off sick with Covid-19, but said the figures sounded accurate.

“Like everywhere else, Byron is running on skeleton staff and now skeleton staff are a luxury. The government keeps saying we’re managing, but we’re not. We’re not managing at all,” McCall said.

Rumours are rife in Byron that a number of “community immunity” parties were held late last year, where unvaccinated people attended to intentionally contract Covid in the belief it would naturally boost their immunity.

There is no suggestion any cast members of the Byron Baes series were involved in these parties.

Dr Joel Hissink, a GP at Bay Centre Medical, said he had no doubt the parties took place.

“I’ve had a Covid-positive patient who told me they had been approached by other people who wanted to catch Covid, and my patient was asked to suck on boiled lollies so that they could be passed around at such a party,” he said.

“I had another patient who told me she had decided to avoid going to the pub because she knew there were people in her broad friendship group who had tested positive and were going to the pub in order to deliberately spread it.

“This is just criminal behaviour.”

Nicqui Yazdi, who runs a Byron Bay page on Facebook promoting Covid safety, said she had been told about “at least three” of the parties, including one that took place at a property “about a week before Christmas”.

“They partied all night, got into the spa together and gave each other Covid on purpose,” she said.

“They all got sick, including a baby.”

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