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SA-Victorian border to stay closed as cases spike


UPDATED | Plans to open South Australia’s Victorian border in three weeks have been scrapped as coronavirus cases continue to surge, throwing business plans, long-awaited family reunions and the AFL season into disarray.

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Premier Steven Marshall told media this morning that the Transition Committee overseeing the state’s economic revival from the coronavirus pandemic had resolved that “we’re not in a position to remove our border on the 20th of July” as planned.

“I’m now advised that the Transition Committee advice is we should scrap that date,” Marshall said.

“We’re increasingly concerned about the outbreaks that are occurring in Victoria… it’s now been decided to completely revise the date that we’ll lift interstate borders.”

Under ongoing border restrictions, people entering SA have to commit to entering two weeks of isolation, while the state will move to a pre-approval process from tomorrow, requiring prospective arrivals to fill out an online form before travelling.

SA has already lifted the border restriction on arrivals from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania, with the state previously committing to opening all its borders from July 20, the first day of term three for local schools.

But several days of soaring caseloads in Victoria have now changed all that – with border arrangements with New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory to now be considered separately.

“We’re very pleased with the way the ACT and NSW have been performing [so] it’s likely we’ll set a date for the removal of borders with ACT and NSW, but we’ll do that independently of July 20,” Marshall said, noting those jurisdictions would be considered by the Transition Committee in its Friday meeting.

“I know there are many families that are dislocated because of the border arrangements; I know it’s very tough on business because of the border arrangements… but we’ve worked so hard to get ourselves into a very enviable position and we’re not prepared to go backwards.”

The move also sent a shockwave through the AFL this morning, just a day after Queensland health officials issued their own new directives forcing sporting teams based in the state into a 14-day quarantine should they play a Melbourne-based club.

Queensland-based clubs would also be forced into quarantine if they either played in Melbourne, or came up against any team that had been in Melbourne in the preceding 14 days – a decision that prompted the reshuffle of three games fixture for this weekend.

Queensland authorities also issued a further Victorian crackdown today.

The SA Government’s stance will cause further headaches for the league, with both SA-based clubs scheduled to play in Melbourne in Round Seven – the weekend before the borders were to reopen – on the assumption that they could then return home after six weeks on the road.

Both clubs have stayed in a Gold Coast hotel ‘hub’ for the past two weeks.

“We know this is going to be very difficult for some people that were planning around July 20 – we know this will have a dramatic affect on the AFL,” Marshall conceded.

“But we’re adopting a position in SA not dissimilar to what’s been announced for Queensland – any team coming in will have to do that two weeks of isolation, and any SA team that goes to Victoria will have to do that two weeks of isolation [on return].

“We apologise to many people that will have to make changes but our number one priority is the health, safety and welfare of all South Australians – and at this point we cannot relax that border on July 20.”

Port Adelaide’s General Manager of Football Chris Davies said the club realised it was “probably inevitable once the numbers in Victoria started to climb as we’ve seen the last few days” that the border decision would be taken.

But he maintained “our time in this hub ends after our game on Saturday night” against the high-flying Lions. The Power had planned to return to the Gold Coast for the following week’s clash against GWS – which could now be in question given the Giants host the Melbourne-based Hawks this weekend.

“We’re going home on Sunday – what happens from there, we’ll have to wait and see what unfolds,” Davies said.

“The remaining fixture, the AFL will work out in coming days.”

Likewise, Crows Head of Football Adam Kelly said the club would “just deal with what’s ahead of us”.

“All we know at this stage is we play Fremantle on Sunday [and] we do plan to head back to Adelaide on Sunday night… beyond that, we’ll await direction,” he told reporters.

He said the club expected further changes to the fixture from Round 6 onwards but couldn’t say how that would affect its players.

“The best outcome for us is to get the opportunity to play at Adelaide Oval in front of our fans… hopefully that eventuates,” he said.

“But we understand the AFL are running a national competition… with different health authorities taking different approaches.

“It’s really for football to be flexible and we’ll just work with whatever’s dealt to us.”

The Premier defended the dramatic move, just a day after he insisted localised lockdowns were proving effective in limiting the spread of the virus.

“We have to provide advice to people [and] not the day before we lift the border – we just don’t have confidence we can say now that the border removal will be safe on July 20,” he said.

“We think it’s much better to give advance notice.”

Melbourne recorded 64 new cases today after 75 new cases yesterday, taking its tally to 431 over the past fortnight – almost on par with SA’s total caseload of 443 – with the majority locally acquired across 10 suburbs.

SA reported three new cases of its own yesterday, all among the 260-odd Australians repatriated from India on the weekend.

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