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'Modest' easing of SA restrictions amid interstate delta variant fears

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Restaurants, cinemas, theatres and churches can return to 75 per cent capacity, provided people remain seated when eating or drinking, with Premier Steven Marshall warning that South Australia will keep restrictions in place “for quite some time” as the coronavirus outbreak in New South Wales worsens.

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Marshall told reporters after this morning’s transition committee meeting that authorities had agreed to a “modest easing of restrictions” from Thursday.

The changes include lifting capacity for seated activities to three people per four-square-metres, meaning restaurants, cafes, bars, churches, theatres and cinemas will be able trade at 75 per cent capacity.

However, people must remain seated when eating or drinking.

Standing activities, such as watching sporting matches, will remain capped at one person per two-square-metres.

Gyms will remain capped at a one person per-four-square-metre limit, as will indoor sporting matches.

Birthday celebrations outside the home can have up to 50 people, while venues that hold wedding receptions or wakes can operate at 75 per cent capacity, provided no more than 50 people attend the ceremonies.

Masks must still be worn in indoor public venues, in high-risk settings such as aged care facilities and hospitals, at personal care services and on public transport.

The number of people allowed to gather at homes will remain capped at 10.

There are no changes to South Australia’s border restrictions.

Marshall said South Australia’s internal restrictions would likely stay in place for “quite some time”, as the eastern states battle delta variant outbreaks.

Victoria this morning recorded 20 new locally-acquired coronavirus cases linked to known outbreaks while only three linked cases were reported in Queensland.

But New South Wales recorded a new daily record of 356 new locally-acquired infections, as well as four COVID-19 deaths.

“The reality is that we may be at this point for quite some time until we can get those vaccination numbers up here in Australia,” Marshall said.

“We need to be careful, we need to be prudent (because) we see the consequences of getting this wrong and it’s not too far to look across the border.

“We’re not taking chances.”

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the transition committee held a “long” meeting this morning to discuss the risks of easing South Australia’s restrictions.

She said there was a “real risk” that the delta variant could make its way to South Australia from New South Wales, meaning internal restrictions were still required.

“I know it makes it complicated, and I know it makes people a bit confused… but we’re basically trying to put the brakes on,” she said.

“Given really in the last six weeks we’ve had not only the miner, we’ve also had the removalists and we’ve had the Modbury outbreak… I think we really need to be thinking and planning for the fact that this is going to happen again.”

Spurrier said the new restrictions would allow businesses to operate at a greater capacity while limiting the risk of infection spread, as South Australia waits to receive more Pfizer vaccination supply in mid-September.

State emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said authorities would “continue to examine the restrictions that we’ve got in place now at each transition committee meeting”.

He said it was a “generally accepted position” at this morning’s meeting that the changes to come into force on Thursday would “probably be with us until we see more traction with the vaccine roll-out”.

“We know there are supply issues that will impede the timeframes for that,” he said.

Man in 20s in intensive care

South Australia recorded no new coronavirus cases today, but three people remain in hospital – including a man in his 20s who is in the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Spurrier said his infection is linked to the Modbury Cluster and he was asymptomatic when he first tested positive.

“He was admitted to intensive care yesterday, but he is in a stable condition, which is great,” she said.

“It’s certainly one of the youngest we’ve had in ICU.”

The other two people – a man and woman in their 80s – are in a stable condition in the hospital’s COVID-19 ward.

Just over 4000 people were tested yesterday, prompting Spurrier to urge people to get tested even if they only have mild symptoms.

It comes after a specialised COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Highgate Park wrongly opened its Pfizer bookings to people aged 18 to 39 over fears of viral waste.

The clinic, which is run by the Department for Human Services, is only supposed to administer the Pfizer vaccine to aged care and disability sector workers.

Staff at the clinic allegedly expressed concern that Pfizer supplies were being wasted, prompting them to open up bookings to younger South Australians, who are still ineligible for the Pfizer vaccine if they live in metropolitan Adelaide.

Hundreds of young people took up the offer after news spread over social media.

But SA Health claimed it did not provide any direction for the clinic to expand eligibility.

Marshall has also denied “any suggestion of waste whatsoever”.

A Department for Human Services spokesperson said yesterday that “an error allowed anyone over the age of 18 to make a booking” at the clinic.

They said all bookings made for this week would be honoured, including those vaccinated yesterday who require a second dose.

All others who made a booking would be contacted to check if they are eligible as an aged care or disability sector worker.

Marshall said today that a “human error” prompted the bungle at the clinic.

“All I know is that clinic was really set up to provide the vaccination for aged care and disability workers,” he said.

“There was a human error… I don’t have the full details of that, but we apologise.”

Spurrier said the bungle “has nothing to do with SA Health”.

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