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Lifting SA crowd caps will depend on vaccination rates

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Caps on crowd numbers at South Australian pubs, restaurants and venues could be lifted when the state has reached an “optimal” number of COVID vaccinations, with health officials expected to calculate a figure within two weeks.

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The state’s transition committee this morning decided against making any change to the 75 per cent capacity cap for hospitality and retail venues that has been in place since March 31, when the cap was lifted from 50 per cent.

But Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said SA Health was working out the level of SA vaccinations which would allow authorities to further lift or remove the cap.

“SA Health are having further discussions this week about identifying what an optimal number of vaccinations looks like so that we can actually properly consider relaxing some of these restrictions,” he told reporters this morning.

InDaily contacted SA Health to ask when this meeting would take place and if any preliminary vaccine threshold numbers had been discussed.

Stevens said there was “no hard and fast number” but the transition committee would discuss SA Health’s findings in two weeks.

“I think it’s a really strong reminder to people to get vaccinated,” he said.

“We are looking at the number of people within the community who do take advantage of that.”

So far, 229,134 people in SA have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

The move to link vaccination numbers to lifting restrictions comes amid a national debate about how many jabs are needed to open Australia’s international borders.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said five million adults in NSW will need to get the vaccine before the state can open up.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is sticking to a timeline outlined in the budget which assumes international borders will reopen halfway through 2022, and the federal government has so far not linked vaccinations to international border reopenings.

Morrison instead suggested this morning that fully vaccinated people should be free move across state borders regardless of outbreaks or local lockdowns.

“[We have been considering] vaccinated Australians firstly to be able to travel around Australia and to be able to move around when states, from time to time, might have to put restrictions in place,” he said.

“But also potentially to be able to travel overseas and have different quarantine arrangements on their return, with the sign-off from state chief health officers.

“But we’re some way off of that.”

‘Significant’ increase in QR code compliance

There has been a “significant” increase in QR code usage in South Australia since SAPOL sent plainclothed police officers to patrol businesses and ensure people were checking in, according to the police commissioner.

“Operation Trace” was launched last Thursday after internal statistics showed QR code usage in SA had dipped by up to 20 per cent in April compared to earlier in the year.

Stevens declined to outline the latest statistics which are due to be released on Friday, but said authorities had observed an increase in QR code scanning.

“We are seeing significant levels of increased compliance and I’m sure everybody out and about there in the community will see more people who are checking in,” he said.

“We’re seeing businesses having better displayed QR codes … I’m very pleased with the way the community has responded to this alert that we’ve put out.”

Stevens declined to say whether any fines had been issued to businesses or individuals for non-compliance, but said police were “speaking to hundreds of people” and “dozens and dozens of businesses” every day.

The number of expiation notices issued as part of operation trace will be released on Friday when police assess Operation Trace’s effectiveness.

“Given the impact that this operation has had, I think you can expect that we’ll be putting specific resources towards making sure people do the right thing,” Stevens said, while also noting that SAPOL “may not elaborate” on the future strategy they put in place.

The police commissioner also said QR code compliance would be a “significant factor” in allowing authorities to relax restrictions.

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