The Sydney Writers' Festival has announced tonight that this year's edition won't go ahead. The "devastating decision" has been made in light of public health advice, and the federal government's ban on gatherings of more than 500 people to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Sydney Writers' Festival artistic director Michaela McGuire and CEO Chrissy Sharp said in a statement that "this is an unprecedented, deeply upsetting and challenging time for everyone, but the health and safety of authors, audiences, staff, publishers, volunteers and our community must come first."

They are encouraging the festival's audience and the broader community to support the authors whose events have been cancelled, and the retailers who sell their books in other ways. "The 2020 festival is now a time capsule, representing a program of 437 writers from 14 countries appearing across 346 events," they said. "It is also a wide-ranging reading list featuring our world’s most exhilarating, honest, clever, ambitious, joyful and disquieting writers."

This year's festival included top-tier authors including Man Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo (Girl, Woman, Other), Bruce Pascoe (Dark Emu) and Lisa Taddeo (Three Women). A separate event featured Patti Smith and Paul Kelly in conversation. All tickets to writers' festival events and their satellites will be refunded. Organisers say the festival is slated to go ahead in 2021.