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SA to allow drinking while standing - but outdoors only

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South Australians will be allowed to drink alcohol at pubs, clubs, and bars while standing up – but only outside – and dance at private functions held at venues with up to 150 people from midnight tomorrow in a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

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The long-awaited easing of restrictions for licenced venues was announced after this morning’s transition committee meeting, which was brought forward one day.

Under the changes, to come into effect from Saturday, patrons of licenced venues will be able to drink alcohol while standing up in outdoor areas.

But drinking inside venues will remain seated only.

Restrictions will also be eased on private functions held at licenced venues, with dancing and drinking while standing allowed for events such as weddings of up to 150 people – regardless of whether they are held indoors or outdoors.

Under current restrictions, dancing is not permitted and people must remain seated while drinking.

Premier Steven Marshall said the impact on the hospitality industry would be “massive” and lead to the employment of “thousands of people very soon”.

“We know that this is a sector which has been very hard-hit with the restrictions that have been in place for an extended period of time,” he said.

“These restrictions have been extraordinarily important in making sure that we can get through this pandemic as effectively as we can, but we know that there is an opportunity to stand up a lot of jobs in this sector if we can get the restrictions right.”

The transition committee decided to only allow people to consume alcohol while standing in outdoor areas of licenced venues as there is less air circulation indoors.

However, SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said she felt confident that people could drink alcohol while standing indoors if they were guests of private events.

“There will be a way of making sure it’s just that 150 (people),” she said.

“From my perspective in health that means I can do the contact tracing because we’ll have all of those details.”

Guests of private functions will still be required to follow social distancing guidelines of one person per two square metres where possible.

Spurrier said she wanted to lift the restrictions now given the low coronavirus case numbers interstate and the imminent winding-down of JobKeeper payments.

“There are going to be people in South Australia unfortunately coming off JobKeeper, so when you weigh up the health risks and the economic risks, I felt exactly what the (Police) Commissioner had proposed was sensible,” she said.

“I’m pretty happy with this decision today.”

Meanwhile, SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens announced further restrictions for the accommodation sector, to come into effect from midnight Friday ahead of next month’s Schoolies festival.

Under the guidelines, the number of people at short-stay accommodation sites such as motels, hotels and houseboats must not exceed the number of beds advertised, plus six other people.

For camp sites and caravan parks, the restrictions only allow for six people over the age of 16 to be present on-site, with no restriction for children under the age of 16.

“This is obviously designed to make sure we don’t have large groups of young people in condensed arrangements on caravan sites,” Stevens said.

“We are receiving information to suggest the absence of the major event for schoolies is seeing the normal schoolies activities spread out over several weekends.

“In order to accommodate that this direction will take effect as of midnight (Friday) and we will review it after the traditional schoolies weekend, which is the 20th to the 22nd of November.”

Authorities last month announced the official schoolies concert would be cancelled over fears social distancing requirements would be impossible to enforce.

It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that New South Wales and South Australia would be the first states to welcome New Zealand tourists as part of a travel bubble.

He said the arrangement would initially be only one-way, allowing Kiwis to fly across the Tasman.

“We’ll be able to move on that very soon,” he told 5AA radio.

“New Zealanders being able to travel to Australia – that’s good for Australian tourism.”

The prospect of Australians travelling to New Zealand is further away.

Morrison said South Australia and NSW would be the first to benefit because they have already removed domestic borders.

“That would take a lot of pressure off at the airports for hotel quarantine, which frees up more places for Australians to come home,” he said.

The prime minister explained states insisting on quarantine for domestic travel would not be included in the bubble.

“We can’t have New Zealand tourists coming and taking up those quarantine places in those states,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discussed the trans-Tasman bubble with Morrison earlier in the week.

“There is a chance that we could have Australia simply open to New Zealand because of our status and where we are right now, which is pretty good,” she told AAP on Wednesday.

However, South Australian authorities are yet to seriously consider opening the state to New Zealand travellers.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s very early days in terms of those discussions,” Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said.

“We’ll closely watch that, but at this point in time it’s not something that we’re putting a significant amount of attention to because there are probably high-level discussions that have to occur before we actually confront the reality of working through a process that would see a travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia.”

– with AAP

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