KITCHENER -- The Blyth Festival has suspends its 2020 season until further notice, the first time in its 46-year history that it has had to do so.

It's the latest from the Ontario performing arts community, which has seen festivals, symphonies and concerts postponed, cancelled or suspends.

Blyth's artistic director, Gil Garratt, says in a statement that the festival owes it to public health officials to promote physical distancing.

"We also know that storytelling and live theatre is a crucial part of community health, and we will be here for this region, and for all Canadian audiences and artists, when the time for us to directly help our community heal is at hand," Garratt says in a statement.

He says the festival is thankful for its sponsors, members and donors who have offered their support through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Blyth Festival has premiered more than 140 plays since it began in 1975. Its plays have been produced in more than two dozen countries around the world.

This is the first time it has ever had to suspend its season.