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50,000 people will sit side-by-side at Origin decider despite virus scare

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50,000 people will sit side-by-side at Origin decider despite virus scare

Authorities have revealed the plan that will allow 50,000 rugby league fans to sit side-by-side without causing a COVID-19 outbreak.

Queensland COVID-19 restrictions will ease on Tuesday afternoon, just in time for the State of Origin decider to be played in front of the largest crowd anywhere in the world since the onset of the pandemic.

It’s been 64 days since the last case of community transmission in the Sunshine State. The virus-free run last week prompted the chief health officer to advise the Premier to peel back restrictions, including increasing stadium capacity to 100 per cent.

More than 52,000 people are therefore technically able to be seated side-by-side at the game but are being advised to wear face masks and practise social distancing where possible.

It comes as Queensland authorities race to track down more than 7000 people who have entered the state from South Australia since last Monday, as quarantine restrictions are imposed following a worrying outbreak in Adelaide.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asked those people on Monday to isolate where they are and get tested, as Queenslanders returning home from South Australia from midnight on Monday have to enter two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said no one who had been in Adelaide would be able to attend the match, and contact tracing would ensure – in the event of a positive case from the match – that all exposed individuals could be quarantined.

Ms D’Ath said all ticket holders from Adelaide had been contacted by Ticketek, and as of Tuesday morning, authorities were aware of five people who had been in Adelaide since last Monday who had purchased tickets.

The SA cluster blew to 20 cases on Tuesday morning, understood to have originated from a medi-hotel in the capital city.

Ms Palaszczuk said the outbreak posed a concern to Queensland after a large number of flights arrived in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Cairns from Adelaide within the last week.

“The last thing we want to see is Queenslanders having to go into any form of lockdown,” she said on Monday.

“But this cluster outbreak is of concern.”

Dr Jeannette Young said the priority was finding those people who had arrived from Adelaide and get them tested.

“We know all the people who have come into our state from Adelaide, so we’re going to be able to contact them all and make sure that they get themselves tested,” Dr Young said.

Wednesday’s Origin decider comes two weeks after the first game of the series was played in Adelaide; however, Dr Young said the period of concern dated back only to last Monday.

The game at Suncorp will be the largest sporting game anywhere in the world since the first wave of COVID-19 suspended crowded matches in March.

The full capacity of Suncorp Stadium is 52,500, and as of Monday, there were only 4000 tickets remaining. Two thousands tickets were put aside as a gift to frontline healthcare workers and emergency services personnel.

Ms D’Ath said stadiums were able to fill 100 per cent of their seats because of allocated seating, and ticket sellers keeping all contact information.

“We know where every single person is sitting … If there are any cases, we know who to directly contact,” she said.

As a buy-in, Suncorp Stadium has introduced measures to keep the match COVID-safe, including advising ticket holders to bring their own masks and wear them to and from the game, especially when entering, exiting and moving around the stadium and on public transport.

Zone allocation is designed to limit movement within the stadium and to reduce congestion. Patrons are also asked to arrive during the time frame on their ticket and only leave when their zone is called.

The stadium is asking people who feel unwell or are showing symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home. In addition, anyone who has been in a COVID-19 hot spot in the past 14 days, which now includes Adelaide, or has been in contact with someone who has been to a hot spot should stay home.

Last month, the second Bledisloe Cup game in Auckland recorded the largest crowd anywhere in the world at a sporting match since COVID-19, welcoming 46,049 spectators.

The NRL grand final in Sydney in October recorded 36,000 spectators.

Meanwhile in the United States, 31,700 fans packed a Texas stadium on November 8 to watch an NFL game.

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