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Venue capacity doubled, major events boosted as restrictions ease

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Venues across South Australia will be able to double their capacity from Monday with the State Government winding back a controversial limit of one person per four square metres – while Adelaide Oval could soon be hosting up to 25,000 spectators for major events.

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Premier Steven Marshall said today that his Transition Committee overseeing SA’s easing of coronavirus restrictions had opted to allow one person per two square metres in bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants from next Monday as the state moves into Phase Three of the COVID-19 transition.

The move effectively doubles the capacity for many operators, who were hamstrung by the requirement to accommodate one person for every four square metres despite caps on customers having increased to 75 per area and 300 per venue.

Marshall said 5000 spectators will be allowed to attend the SANFL at Adelaide Oval on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, with the league to determine whether that number is spread across the two double-headers to kick off the stalled season.

But from Monday, the Stadium Management Authority and other major events organisers will be able to submit ‘COVID management plans’ to convince authorities they can operate at 50 per cent capacity – which could see up to 25,000 spectators attend games and events at the Oval from as early as the following weekend.

“We’re continuing to open up our economy and get people back to work,” Marshall said.

“My number one priority is the health, safety and welfare of all South Australians – we’ve got that balance right.

“SA continue to have an excellent record in terms of reduced infections… and that gives us confidence to further reduce restrictions in phase three.”

He said moving from one in four to one person per two square metres would “significantly increase the capacity of many sectors to re-employ people and get them back to work”.

“This represents 50 per cent of the capacity of most venues,” he said.

Hotels’ Association boss Ian Horne agreed, saying while the higher cap had helped larger venues, “most of the smaller operators – small bar venues, cafes, restaurants and most city pubs – were hindered by the requirement of four square metres [which] doesn’t come closer to viability”.

He said a “rule of thumb in the industry is one [person] per one [square metre]” so “this means at the very least [returning to] 50 per cent of their original capacity”.

“This is really what the industry has been calling for, and we’re delighted the Transition Committee and Premier have acted so quickly,” he said.

“It’s a serious shot in the arm for the industry… they’ve now got some capability of getting more of their staff back and starting to rebuild their businesses.”

Marshall said SA could contemplate larger public gatherings, arguing “some higher-risk activities which have never been contemplated before will be considered – but only after a comprehensive COVID management plan has been approved by SA Health”.

“Any large event will need to have a COVID management plan [but] our direction now is for 50 per cent capacity,” he said, adding that authorities would “sit down with the Stadium Management Authority… and the codes playing at Adelaide Oval” to discuss a transition to a substantial attendance increase, which “could be 25,000”.

“A larger event of over 500 people, we’d want to sit down with the organisers and look at their COVID management plan,” he said.

“This weekend will be 5000 per day, but as of Monday there will be the ability to go up to 50 per cent when we are satisfied with the management plan requirements.”

However, whether that means AFL games can regularly recommence at the Oval in the near future will likely depend on ongoing border restrictions, with Marshall saying SA would continue to maintain “a strong border policy in place in relation to Victoria” and would move to “a pre-approval arrangement of all people coming across that border”.

“We’ll not be opening our borders to Victoria unless we’re absolutely satisfied we’re not going to go backwards from a health and safety perspective,” he said.

However, he maintained the state hoped to open borders on July 20, unlike WA which has maintained ongoing border restrictions while reopening its economy.

“We want to open up our border,” Marshall said.

“Keeping the borders in place for too long will have a punishing effect on many sectors of our economy, and hits families who are dislocated due to the border [but] I do emphasise we’re not going to lift borders if we’re going to go backwards as a state.”

He noted there had been “an open border between Victoria and NSW and the ACT, and there’s no evidence there’s been any transition from Victoria into the ACT – and probably not even into NSW”.

“So it’s a very small risk, but it needs to be managed,” he said.

He also revealed SA will be host another group of returning Australian citizens in coming weeks as they serve their mandatory fortnight of quarantine after international travel.

He said it would be “a similar number to what we had last month”, when around 700 stayed at the Pullman and Playford hotels.

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