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Question: COVID-19 Dancing Restrictions for Licensed Venues

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:50): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the health regulation and protection policies for COVID management plans and dancing in licensed venues.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: According to the COVID-19 fact sheet distributed by Health Regulation and Protection, Department for Health and Wellbeing, those licensed premises where both dancing and the consumption of liquor occurs or which have gatherings and activities of more than 1,000 people will need a COVID management plan. Further, this COVID management plan must be approved, and they are informed by the fact sheet that it will take approximately two weeks to do so.

Never fear, if a licensed premises or a venue of over 1,000 wishes to hold their activity before that approval is given, they are informed that, yes, they can operate, but with strict conditions. One, is that no more than 1,000 people attend, and the second is, either liquor is served or there is dancing, both activities cannot occur together without having an approved COVID management plan. If dancing is not planned to occur, venues must demonstrate they are taking all reasonable steps to prevent it from occurring. My questions for the minister are:

1. Why is it taking two weeks to approve COVID management plans for venues?

2. How will SAPOL be advised to police what is dancing?

3. Who approves the plans and on what criteria?

4. Will venues be fined if they can't stop people dancing?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:53): I thank the honourable member for her question. I think it is important to stress that no part of Australia is COVID free. That was demonstrated very starkly earlier today when the Northern Territory recorded its first COVID-19 case for 60 days. My recollection is that that might be the longest time since the last COVID case.

So even in jurisdictions which have been relatively successful in suppressing cases, we cannot assume we are COVID free. That is why we still have myriad restrictions. We still have restrictions in relation to nursing homes. We still have restrictions in relation to mass gatherings, and we made it clear when we did our most recent and most significant easing of restrictions that there would continue to be restrictions in relation to high-risk activities.

I think it would be helpful for the council to be mindful that the high-risk nature of nightclubs is not merely the view of SA Health clinicians. Let's remember that South Korea, one of the best jurisdictions in flattening the curve in relation to COVID, experienced a second wave specifically because of outbreaks related to nightclubs. We are also not the only jurisdiction which is limiting the easing of restrictions in relation to nightclubs.

For example, Spain in Europe reopened nightclubs on 8 June, but they specifically said no dancing. They are not even letting you do management plans. They are insisting that all dance floors be repurposed for seated patrons. The UK is not even going to try. They are opening pubs this weekend; they are not opening nightclubs. Italy, likewise, is not reopening nightclubs, except for limited exceptions. Right around the world we are seeing nightclubs identified as a high-risk activity. Why wouldn't they be? You have a congregation of adults involved in a vigorous activity—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Not for all.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Depending on how you dance, I suppose. Apparently, dancers who are better at dancing than me break out a sweat. It's very difficult in a nightclub to maintain social distancing. Shall we say, the disinhibiting nature of alcohol also increases the risk, so I accept the advice of the public health clinicians that this is a high-risk activity that needs to be regulated.

I appreciate that there will be some frustration as we roll out the compliance, but we just need to look at how dynamic the restrictions have been over the last month. It's a huge task for a group of public health clinicians to both maintain the suppression strategy and also provide advice and oversight of the easing of restrictions.

They have done a marvellous job in terms of coordinating with schools, with businesses, with religious communities and all manner of organisations they have had to engage with. I appreciate the frustration for those who are in high-risk activities, but we need to do this for the sake of the public health of South Australians.

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