Eleven family members of Port Adelaide AFL players were wrongly granted travel exemptions to enter South Australia on the same day the border with NSW was re-opened.
South Australia’s border re-opening with NSW will officially go ahead but the good news has been tempered by new cases, a travel exemption breach and a quarantine bungle.
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The border restrictions with NSW were lifted at midnight on Wednesday after the state recorded its second day of no community transmission cases of COVID-19.
NSW residents travelling to SA will no longer have to go into 14 days of self-isolation so long as they do not enter via Victoria.
But authorities have been left red-faced after 11 Victorian family members of Port Adelaide players were wrongly granted exemptions to enter SA.
Port will host Geelong in a qualifying final at Adelaide Oval on October 1.
Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier says the exemptions were granted by a member of SA Health’s exemptions committee who has since been counselled.
Five of the 11 who have already arrived in SA will undergo 14 days’ hotel quarantine at their own expense and then will be free to remain in the state.
The others have had their exemptions revoked.
“It is absolutely entirely inappropriate at this point in time,” Professor Spurrier said on Wednesday.
“We do have a very rigorous exemption process and as people would know, we have quite a hard border with Victoria at the moment.
“Our health exemptions really should be people with compelling compassionate reasons ... in this instance, that is not the case.
“It was absolutely a mistake. This should not have happened and it should have gone to the full exemption panel where a rigorous discussion is taken place.”
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The state’s Health Minister Stephen Wade was scathing of the decision to allow the families into South Australia.
“From day one, SA Health and Nicola Spurrier and her team have indicated there will be no preference to elite sports people in terms of the administration of public health in SA,” Wade said.
“In some ways that may have been detrimental to our relationship with the AFL but the health and safety of South Australians is our paramount consideration.
“In relation to exemptions, there has been a lot of work in recent months to improve the quality of our exemption process.
“There has been information put out the public so they have more clarity in terms of what the factors are and what will be considered. There’s been a more structural process in terms of consideration by officers and the exemption committee.
“From time to time there will be failures in the system. This was one of them but when we identify an issue with the process, we address it and that's what we’re doing now.”
Port Adelaide said the club was aware that some family members were applying for an exemption, but didn’t play a part in helping facilitate the request.
Professor Spurrier has since promised to step back onto the exemption committee to provide extra oversight and will also review previous decisions.
SA records first positive cases in weeks
It comes as SA recorded its first new cases in almost two weeks after a man and a woman in their 20s tested positive after arriving from Qatar on Sunday with their young child.
They are in quarantine and their child has tested negative.
A hotel security guard is being treated as a close contact and will also be forced to quarantine after potentially being exposed to the family.
Premier Steven Marshall earlier said the state was excited to re-open its borders to NSW.
“Last week it was the ACT, this week it is NSW,” he said.
“It has been an enormous impediment on business, on families, on family reunification and that is going to be gone as of midnight tonight.
“That's going to be an absolute boon for our economy in South Australia but most importantly, creating more jobs.”