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Home gathering cap lifted to 200 people in time for weekend

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South Australians will be allowed to party with up to 200 people at their home from tomorrow, provided they maintain a density of one person per two square-metres and comply with special safety measures.

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Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told reporters after this morning’s transition committee meeting that the lifting of the home gathering cap, currently set at 50 people, would be “wonderful” news for people wanting to host home weddings or other large celebrations.

However, she said hosts who invite more than 50 people to their homes would need to keep a guest list, apply for a COVID-Safe plan through the SA Health website, display a QR code and appoint a designated COVID marshal to ensure guests comply with the one person per two square-metre social distancing rule.

People who host home gatherings of less than 50 people are not required to follow the additional safety measures.

The new regulation comes into force at midnight tonight.

Spurrier said the additional safety measures would help contact tracers identify guests in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

She said it was “very easy” for people to apply for a COVID-Safe plan online, with the application process taking as little as four minutes to complete.

Spurrier also urged hosts to choose a “reliable” and “trustworthy” person to be a COVID marshal, but she stopped short of saying they were required to remain sober for the duration of the party.

“I would presume your COVID marshal would be sober at the beginning of the night (and) one would hope they remain sober throughout the event, but it is an important job,” she said.

“I think everybody in South Australia has done a good job with COVID safety and I’m sure that people who are having a home event will want to do the same to protect their guests.”

Hosts who exceed the 200-guest home gathering cap or who do not comply with the safety measures risk a $1000 fine.

The transition committee also discussed when South Australia would lift its border restrictions with New South Wales, after the eastern state today recorded its fourth consecutive day without a new locally-acquired COVID-19 case.

Currently, residents of Greater Sydney, the New South Wales’ Central Coast and Wollongong are banned from entering South Australia.

People from the rest of regional NSW can come to SA if they do coronavirus tests on their first, fifth and twelfth days in the state.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said the border restriction would not change for now, but authorities were eyeing a January 31 end-date.

He said the six positive cases of community transmission reported by NSW authorities on Sunday were still cause for “some concern”.

“Those cases have now been in that hotel quarantine arrangement for five days, so all going well, we would look to lift the restrictions with New South Wales at… one minute past midnight on the 30th of January,” he said.

State emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said earlier in the week that authorities were considering allowing residents from low-risk parts of Greater Sydney to enter the state before the end of this month, but Spurrier today said people in that region could travel and pass the virus across areas of concern.

“We saw very clearly when Victoria had its problems last year that even though a suburb had been locked down it didn’t take long for disease to spread,” she said.

“In my mind, I think we need to take that into account.”

Spurrier also said she was concerned about the low testing rates in NSW.

“I think we do need to give this a little bit longer and we have an exemption process for people who do for particular reasons need to come into South Australia, and that system is working really well,” she said.

There were two new coronavirus cases reported in South Australia today – both overseas travellers who have been in hotel quarantine.

Spurrier said the cases were “old” cases that had not yet been added to the state’s virus tally, which now sits at 596 cases – five of which are currently active.

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