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'Don't touch that ball': Spurrier defends AFL exemption decision

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The state’s chief public health officer says allowing Collingwood Football Club players to travel to Adelaide for this weekend’s Crows game carries “negligible risk”, with SA Health imposing a series of restrictions on the clubs ahead of the sanctioned match.

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Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier confirmed to reporters at a press conference this afternoon that SA Health had approved a request from the AFL to grant Collingwood players and coaches exemptions to travel into South Australia on Saturday.

The press conference occurred minutes after the AFL released a statement saying SA Health had approved the match “on the basis of a set of protocols to be adopted by Collingwood and the Adelaide Crows”.

Spurrier said that the travel exemption was a “very special situation” and SA Health had imposed a series of requirements on Collingwood and Crows players to allow the match to proceed.

“The requirement on the Collingwood team will be that they now have to go into quarantine in Victoria and that means if they are with their family, their family also has to quarantine because we don’t want them out into any further exposure sites,” she said.

“Individually, each of those players have to sign a declaration that they have not been at an exposure site at those times.

“Also, just before they come over to South Australia they need to sign a declaration as well.”

Spurrier said the “very small” contingent of Collingwood team members travelling to South Australia would not stay in the state and they would fly in and out on a charter flight.

If you are at Adelaide Oval and the ball comes towards you, my advice to you is to duck and do not touch that ball.

She said they would be tested 24 hours before travelling to South Australia and get swabbed upon landing.

The team will not be allowed to travel to Adelaide Oval until they return negative tests.

“They will not be coming into contact with anybody – any South Australian – except the players in the Crows team,” Spurrier said.

Crows players will need to get tested within 48 hours after the match.

They will also have “some restrictions on their movements” in the two days after the game until all players return negative test results, but Spurrier did not say what those restrictions were.

The crowd will also likely be subject to some restrictions, despite Spurrier stating there is “little risk” that they could become exposed to COVID-19.

“We are looking at the seating at the moment and, of course, we’re looking at the ball, because sometimes the ball – not that I have been to many football games (but) I have noticed occasionally it does get kicked into the crowd,” Spurrier said.

“We are working through the details of what that will mean.

“If you are at Adelaide Oval and the ball comes towards you, my advice to you is to duck and do not touch that ball.”

It comes as the Victorian Government this morning extended its seven-day lockdown of Melbourne for another week, while flagging that some restrictions would ease in regional Victoria in the next 24 hours.

Victoria’s Department of Health recorded six new COVID-19 cases this morning, bringing the total number of cases linked to the Whittlesea cluster to 60.

Spurrier said she had “more information, more details than is reported in the media” from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and she felt confident that SA Health had made the right decision to allow the match to proceed in Adelaide.

“I think this is negligible risk,” she said.

“Yes, we have a lot of exposure sites and we do now have some unlinked community cases, however, I do not feel there is evidence of widespread community transmission.

“We also have more experience bringing people into this state and doing risk mitigation and, in fact, every time we’ve had a lockdown we’ve brought people into South Australia for particular reasons, particularly around work.

“In this instance, these people are playing, it’s part of their work, so only those people who are essential to this game – and it’s essential to their work – are able to come.”

Spurrier added that it was not her job to “make a moral judgement about whether football’s more important than something else.

“My job is actually to keep this and make this as safe as possible.”

Police Commissioner and State Emergency Coordinator Grant Stevens this morning said that he was “comfortable that SA Health have considered all of the circumstances and identified a way for this to happen safely”.

Spurrier said that SA Health had approved 60 per cent – or just over 190 – requests from people in Victoria wanting to travel into South Australia after the state shut its border last week.

She said travel exemptions were only approved for “quite serious” reasons, such as if a person wanted to visit a dying relative, or to attend a funeral.

“We would definitely prioritise and allow those people to come into our state,” Spurrier said.

“When we approve these exemptions, whilst people are allowed in South Australia they do have to quarantine, they have a testing regime that they need to go through and they also have to wear a mask and other PPE at all times, so it’s quite a strict procedure.”

In a statement, the AFL’s executive general manager of clubs and broadcasting Travis Auld thanked SA Health for granting Collingwood travel exemptions.

“We have six really strong games this weekend, and although some are taking place at unfamiliar home venues for a handful of clubs, we are encouraging as many fans as possible to come and see some great footy,” he said.

“The reality of the current situation in the community means the fixture will become a week by week proposition for the short-term, as we navigate through an uncertain period.

“While teams may find themselves on the road for a week or two, we are not envisaging a longer-term hub arrangement for any clubs.

“We will continue to keep a close eye on the current situation in the community before making, if required, any further changes to upcoming rounds.”

Spurrier said the decision to grant Collingwood players a travel exemption did not set a precedent and SA Health reviewed the request as a “one off” proposal.

Meanwhile, South Australia recorded six new coronavirus cases today, however five of those are considered old infections and are no longer active.

All six people returned from overseas and are currently in hotel quarantine.

South Australia has recorded 760 positive coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

About 8000 South Australians were tested yesterday.

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