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AFL confirms Collingwood travel exemption

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UPDATED: The AFL has confirmed SA Health has allowed Collingwood players to fly to Adelaide for a Crows game this weekend, as the Melbourne lockdown is extended for another week.

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The AFL fixture for round 12 was released on Tuesday night with Adelaide’s game against Collingwood on Saturday afternoon the only unconfirmed match due to South Australia’s hard border with Victoria.

Only essential travellers, returning South Australians, people genuinely relocating or fleeing domestic violence are allowed to enter the state, but are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The AFL confirmed in a statement this afternoon that the Collingwood vs Crows match would go ahead as fixtured.

“The AFL wishes to advise the Round 12 fixture of the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season has now been finalised,” the statement said.

“The last remaining match to be locked in has now been confirmed by the AFL and the South Australian Government.

“The match has been approved by the SA Government on the basis of a set of agreed protocols to be adopted by Collingwood and the Adelaide Crows.”

Police Commissioner and State Emergency Coordinator Grant Stevens said this morning that SA Health’s exemption committee had granted the exemption for a “reduced” number of Collingwood players and staff to travel into Adelaide.

SA Health this morning refused to comment on the travel arrangements until they are finalised with the AFL, leaving Stevens to outline the restrictions the cohort of Collingwood players and staff will face during their time in Adelaide.

“This involves a chartered flight, a sterile corridor from the airport to the venue isolated from all other venue operators whilst at the venue, COVID testing before they leave Melbourne, COVID testing here [and] COVID testing of the team they play,” Stevens told ABC Radio this morning.

“[Collingwood will] fly in [and] fly out on the same day, essentially quarantining them from the rest of the South Australian community as much as possible.”

Stevens added that this “would be a similar arrangement for any other person who was provided an exemption”.

“I’m comfortable that SA Health have considered all of the circumstances and identified a way for this to happen safely,” he said.

“Professor Spurrier and her deputy chief health officers have looked at the circumstances and determined a way that they would provide an exemption that allows the Collingwood Football Club to bring over a reduced cohort to play the game.

“This is an SA Health decision – they are the experts in this particular field and they have made the call that this can be done safely.”

Stevens said concerns about how much this exemption would increase the risk of COVID transmission in South Australia is “probably a question for Professor Spurrier or someone else at SA Health”.

“When you talk about this isolation approach that we are applying for these players to come in … I think we can take comfort from the fact that if there is any possibility of transmission it is being mitigated and we are going to pick it up as quickly as possible if it does occur,” he said.

The AFL’s executive general manager of clubs and broadcasting Travis Auld thanked the SA Government for approving the travel exemptions.

“On behalf of the AFL I would like to thank all the State Governments, the clubs, the players, the AFLPA, the umpires, broadcast partners, venues and all the fans for their continued patience and understanding as we all continue to navigate through the pandemic,” he said.

Auld said the AFL fixture would become a “week by week proposition for the short-term” as Victoria deals with its latest COVID-19 outbreak.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

It comes as the Victorian Government this morning extended its seven-day lockdown of Melbourne for another week, although flagged some restrictions will 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.

Professor Spurrier and Health Minister Stephen Wade are due to front a media conference this afternoon.

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