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South Australian health authorities have warned AFL fans not to touch the ball if it flies into the crowd during Adelaide’s home game against Collingwood, sparking puns about possible “airborne transmission” of Covid.
The Melbourne-based Magpies have been granted a special exemption to travel to South Australia for Saturday’s twilight clash with the Crows at Adelaide Oval, which has been operating with full-capacity crowds since early May.
South Australia’s chief public health officer, Prof Nicola Spurrier, on Wednesday defended the decision to allow the team to visit despite the border being closed to Victoria amid the state’s growing Covid-19 cluster.
Spurrier described the exemption as a “special situation”, saying the risk was “negligible” because the team was already in quarantine at home in Melbourne along with their families or housemates.
Only essential staff and players will fly into South Australia on game day, travel to Adelaide Oval on a health department bus and fly out straight after the match.
“They will not be making contact with anyone in SA except the players in the Crows team,” Spurrier said. “That is the only group in SA that will be exposed.”
But Spurrier went on to surprise media at her press conference by revealing that discussions with stadium staff included not only a bid to reduce contact opportunities between fans and players – but also between fans and the ball.
“We’re looking at the seating at the moment and, of course, we’re looking at the ball,” she said.
“Because sometimes the ball, not that I’ve been to many football games, but I have noticed occasionally it does get kicked into the crowd. 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 just do not touch that ball.”
The comments prompted both anger and humour on social media. Some called out the perceived double standards of allowing a sporting team into South Australia while restricting residents from visiting Victoria or having friends or relatives enter South Australia.
Others admired the hypocrisy of allowing some 50,000 spectators into a stadium without social distancing while also asking them to duck to avoid a ball for fear of catching Covid.
South Australia’s police commissioner, Grant Stevens, said on Wednesday the exemption was “not a whimsical decision”. “I can ensure you they have laboured over this quite substantially,” Stevens told ABC radio.
The issue is unlikely to go away after the Victorian government on Wednesday extended Melbourne’s week-long lockdown for a further seven days. Spurrier said future games would be considered on a case-by-case basis, including next round’s scheduled match between Port Adelaide and Geelong.
The AFL’s executive general manager of clubs and broadcasting, Travis Auld, thanked SA Health for granting Collingwood the travel exemption.
“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,” Auld said in a statement.
“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.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Do not touch that ball’: Covid advice prompts anger and humour from AFL fans | AFL