South Australia’s public health chief says an external review will investigate how and why 11 Victorian-based relatives of Port Adelaide AFL players were granted exemptions to coronavirus travel restrictions while other families are being denied.
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier yesterday revealed 11 relatives of Power players had been approved by SA Health to enter the state, ahead of the club’s qualifying final against Geelong at Adelaide Oval next week.
After finding out about the “absolute mistake”, Dr Spurrier revoked the exemption for six of them, while the other five — who have already arrived — will be able to continue their 14-day hotel quarantine.
The South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) this morning shed more light on the situation, saying the head of Events SA had played an initial role in the process but was not responsible for the decision.
The bungle coincides with the lifting of travel restrictions from New South Wales into SA, with people in NSW now allowed to cross the border into SA without having to do 14 days’ quarantine.
It has also prompted a backlash from others still stranded in Victoria — where restrictions still apply — who have accused authorities of double standards.
Angela Mead, who resides in the Victorian town of Echuca, said she has not been able to hug her 10-year-old daughter, who lives in Adelaide with her father, since May.
“There’s a lot of people like me people in worse situations,” she said.
“But I think people like us start seeing things like that … there’s all these people mingling yet I can’t.”
She said it was unfair she could not enter South Australia but Power relatives, along with cross-border sports players, could enter the state.
Ms Mead has put in another application to visit Adelaide, where her father is terminally ill, but it is yet to go before the SA Health panel that decides on exemptions.
Dr Spurrier said someone from outside SA Health would review departmental processes around border exemptions to prevent the Port Adelaide situation being repeated.
“We’re very keen to review this,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning.
“Our [chief executive] has spoken to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and we’re looking forward to having an external person come in and go through all of our processes.”
Events SA boss spoke to families
The SATC this morning released a statement confirming Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed, who previously worked at the Port Adelaide Football Club, helped the players’ families contact SA Health.
“She helped to initially connect a representative of the families to SA Health and then left the decision-making process to the relevant health officials to work through,” a spokesperson said.
“SATC doesn’t have any say in how SA Health view applications or approvals.”
Dr Spurrier said it was her understanding that the person from SA Health who gave the exemption “had no connection whatsoever” with the Port Adelaide Football Club, including as a member or a fan.
“This was a mistake — it was a poor judgement,” she said.
“I still haven’t got to the bottom of how or why this happened but I join with all South Australians in saying I’m not happy about it.”
She said disciplinary action was a matter for the department’s chief executive, Chris McGowan, not her.
She will meet with him today.
Premier has questions to answer: Labor
Labor health spokesman Chris Picton said Premier Steven Marshall needed to answer questions about any involvement from the government in the matter.
“There are so many people that haven’t been able to see dying loved ones, who haven’t been able to go to funerals — how was it that people within the Marshall government viewed football games and watching a football game as more important than those situations?” he said.
A Port Adelaide Football Club spokesperson said the club had “no involvement in the process of players’ parents seeking exemptions”.
“Those decisions are a matter for SA Health,” the spokesperson said.
Two new cases of COVID-19 were reported in South Australia yesterday.
A woman and a man tested positive after arriving in Adelaide from overseas on Sunday — but a child who was travelling with them has so far not tested positive.
They bring the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the virus was first detected in SA to 468.