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South Australia, the only jurisdiction to lock down an entire populace over the false claims of one pizza guy, has confirmed its status as the nation’s covidiot state by forcing returning Olympians to endure an entire month in quarantine.
The decision by the Marshall government to require South Australian-based athletes quarantining in Sydney to isolate for a further two weeks once they return home has dismayed the Australian Olympic Committee, which described the measure as “cruel and uncaring”.
South Australian Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier is forcing returning Olympians quarantining in Sydney to isolate for a further two weeks once they return home. Credit:Kelly Barne
It is also at odds with what every other state in the Commonwealth has agreed to do through national cabinet.
Not even the hermit kingdom of Western Australia, a state that has sought to seal itself from the rest of the country and world, has placed such onerous demands on athletes returning from Tokyo.
Although athletes can apply to quarantine at home instead of a hotel, they must demonstrate they can isolate from other family members. If they can’t, anyone who shares their home will be forced to isolate and stay home from work and school.
The decision affects 16 athletes and has prompted genuine concerns from the AOC’s chief medical officer, David Hughes, about the mental health impact on them and their families.
While most Australians celebrated and found blessed distraction in the performance of our Olympic athletes in Tokyo, there is less appreciation of the infection control measures they were subjected to before and during the Games.
For two weeks before they travelled to Tokyo, all athletes were required to monitor their health and report daily temperature checks. Although it was not mandatory for them to be fully vaccinated to go the Olympics, nearly all of them are.
Once inside the Olympic village, they observed strict COVID-19 protocols including wearing masks unless they were competing, eating or sleeping. They were prohibited from touching athletes from other countries or leaving the village unless to train and compete.
They provided daily saliva samples that were screened for the virus with rapid antigen tests. They provided two PCR tests in the 72 hours before they travelled to Tokyo and a further PCR test in the 72 hours before they were due to leave.
Once in quarantine in Sydney, they have not left their hotel rooms and have been PCR tested on days two, five and 12 of their 14-days stint.
The athletes had good reason to be COVID-safe in Tokyo. Had they come into contact with the virus, it would have ended their Olympic campaign. So far, there is no evidence that any Australian athlete who went to Tokyo contracted the virus.
Every other state treats quarantine hotels as “green zones”. This enables people to travel straight from their hotel to the airport and fly home without having a quarantine a second time.
South Australia, despite carving out a travel exemption for travelling AFL players, has made no such allowance for Olympic athletes quarantining in Sydney, which is battling a large COVID outbreak fuelled by the more infectious Delta variant of the virus.
The AOC has been quietly working to overturn South Australia’s decision, but on Tuesday, just as the first athletes to return home were nearing the end of their 14-day quarantine period, South Australia’s chief public health officer Nicole Spurrier informed them that she was not for turning.
If you can’t picture Spurrier, she is public health official who advised spectators at football matches to duck any balls kicked into the stand lest they come into contact with a contagious Sherrin. She also ordered South Australia into a seven-day lockdown on the basis of a single case at a pizza restaurant later exposed as a furphy.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll petitioned Spurrier, South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade and Premier Steven Marshall, but so far has received no explanation for why an exemption couldn’t be granted in line with other states.
“While other countries are celebrating the return of their athletes, we are subjecting ours to the most cruel and uncaring treatment,” Carroll said. “They are being punished for proudly representing their country with distinction at the Olympic Games.”
The athletes aren’t being punished. They have been badly let down.
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