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School holidays 'weren't considered' in SA open border decision

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The chair of the state government’s powerful coronavirus Transition Committee says the leadership team didn’t consider school holiday dates when advising the government on when to lift state border restrictions.

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Steven Marshall’s Premier’s department boss Jim McDowell – who chairs the Transition Committee –  has told a parliamentary inquiry into SA’s COVID-19 response that the date chosen to lift border restrictions was made without contemplating when mid-year school holidays end.

The Government has announced that subject to health advice at the time all state border restrictions will be lifted on July 20 – the day SA students return to class.

“Certainly, in my mind it didn’t have anything to do with the school holidays and I don’t remember anything being articulated about the school holidays,” McDowell said

“It may have been in some people’s minds but it didn’t in my mind… it wasn’t in my contemplation.”

He said if a family was to travel interstate for the school holidays and return on July 19, they would be forced to quarantine for the full 14 days from the day they arrive back in South Australia, even if restrictions were lifted from July 20.

If that same family were to return to South Australia one day later, they would not need to self-isolate.

“The rules apply, the directions apply until the 20th (of July),” McDowell told the inquiry.

This prompted inquiry chair Tammy Franks to suggest she had been given different advice from a relevant minister, to which McDowell insisted: “I’m confident in the answer, because I asked the same question myself.”

“That was a matter that we did discuss,” he added.

There are concerns over allowing Victorians to enter SA, after that state has continued to record significant new coronavirus caseloads for the past week.

McDowell said while the border restriction date was still in place it could yet be changed.

“We have been very clear that we would review that as necessary,” McDowell said

“At the moment we haven’t changed the decision, we’ve said the 20th of July is when the borders will be open between South Australia and every other state in Australia – but we reserve the right to review that decision with regard to the medical advice at the time.”

He did not say why July 20 had been chosen.

“We gave some advice that we thought the 20th of July would be an appropriate time to lift the borders,” McDowell said.

“Whenever that decision was made, the situation in New South Wales was improving out of sight and New South Wales and the ACT … and Victoria had not hit this little peak that it’s currently hitting.”

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