Coronavirus restrictions ease at SA hospitality venues as health chief’s advice overruled – ABC News


South Australia has recorded a sixth consecutive day without a new coronavirus case and will immediately relax density restrictions in hospitality venues — against the advice of the state’s health chief.

The current restriction of one person per four square metres will be eased to one person per two square metres.

The changes were not scheduled to happen until mid-December, and the updated timeline follows lobbying efforts by the hospitality sector.

In making the decision, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens overruled advice from the Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier that any easing of restrictions should wait until after the weekend.

“It was made clear by Professor Nicola Spurrier that the preferred way forward moving into the next phase of this particular response is that we retain social distancing of one person per four square metres across the board, and that we reconsider our position as we move into next week,” he said.

“But given the economic implications, the impact on employment, the current time of the year, our current performance with the Parafield cluster and the new measures we have in place to enhance contact tracing, my decision has been that we will endorse a one-person-per-two-square-metre rule.

“This is one time when there were factors that needed to be taken into consideration, in addition to the health advice. There are times when what comes from SA Health, from the Chief Public Health Officer, is a non-negotiable.”

Professor Spurrier confirmed, at today’s post-Transition Committee media conference, that her preference had been to retain existing restrictions for the time being.

Nicola Spurrier looking away from the camera with an Australian flag in the background.
Professor Nicola Spurrier wanted to retain tougher restrictions on hospitality venues.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

Commissioner Stevens said the high uptake of QR code technology and South Australians’ compliance with current rules influenced the final decision.

“The QR codes have been described as a game changer in terms of contact tracing, and the work that has been done to quarantine this cluster and put a ring around it so it doesn’t spread any further through the community has been exceptional,” he said.

“The take-up of QR codes has given us some confidence to manage the risk around this current response to the Parafield cluster and that is the decision we have taken.”

Patrons pack a small bar in Adelaide.
Restrictions on social density at venues will be eased.(Supplied)

Hundreds of bar, cafe and restaurant owners rallied in the city yesterday demanding the easing of restrictions.

Commissioner Stevens said seated consumption requirements would remain in place, and that police would exercise “a level of tolerance” over compliance on using QR codes, but they “expect people to take it up”.

The relaxation of restrictions will not apply to other indoor activities, but the commissioner said it is hoped other restrictions could be eased by Friday next week.

Active cases, quarantine numbers drop

The state now has only seven active coronavirus cases.

Professor Spurrier said the number of South Australians in quarantine, which was “up well into the thousands” at the peak of the Parafield outbreak, had now dropped to 272.

There were 3,548 tests taken yesterday, which Professor Spurrier said was “not really high enough”.

In particular, she urged people along Adelaide’s coastline — including Hove, Somerton Park, Glenelg and Henley Beach — to consider getting tested.

“If you happen to be in that area, and that’s obviously the western suburbs where we have had some concern, then please if you have got symptoms, go and get tested,” she said.

She said avoiding transmission of coronavirus to residents at a Brompton aged care facility, which recorded four COVID-positive cases among staff members in November, was “something to celebrate”.

“We did have four staff who were infectious, and we had two initial staff who were even in that facility, but we didn’t have any transmission,” she said.

“This is absolutely because of the planning that had been done over the last many months … to make sure residents are kept as safe as possible in our aged care facilities.”

Professor Spurrier said the plan remained to cap crowds at Adelaide Oval at 50 per cent during the upcoming Test match.

“We are talking to the Adelaide Oval about having people wear masks and working through what that will mean,” she said.



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