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Explaining the ins and outs of our perplexing relaxed COVID restrictions

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Queensland allowed the world’s biggest sporting event to go ahead since coronavirus was declared a pandemic, with Wednesday’s State of Origin decider attracting some 50,000 fans. So why is schoolies still off the cards?

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Wednesday night’s thrilling State of Origin decider even had Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young relishing a gathering that would have been unthinkable for most of this year.

“It was a brilliant game and it was good to see so many people coming together and celebrating,” said Young.

There was barely a mask in sight as ticket holders queued to get in and out of the stadium, but again, Young was not too worried.

“We’ve all had a really, really difficult year, so we should be celebrating with our friends, our families and our communities,” she said.

So if Origin went ahead, why can’t Schoolies?

‘Not ticketed or seated’

The Queensland Government made the call to cancel Schoolies back in August, deeming it too high a risk for the potential spread of COVID-19.

But since then, coronavirus restrictions have eased significantly.

Big changes took effect this week, including open-air stadiums with COVID-safe plans being allowed to fill to capacity.

But Young said the Schoolies decision stands.

“It’s not ticketed or seated, so you’ll get 50,000 kids all milling and mingling — it’s a different scenario,” Young said.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said everyone who attended the Brisbane Origin game could be contacted if necessary.

“It is about knowing every single person in the room, knowing they’re staying in the same seat, knowing — if we needed to — we could contact 50,000 people who attended the stadium quite quickly and easily,” D’Ath said.

But Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) spokeswoman Amanda Rohan said its members saw “inconsistencies” in the COVID measures.

“The optics of having 50,000 people at Suncorp Stadium when the business down the road is still operating under restrictions probably does hit at the heart of some businesses,” Rohan said.

“We’d really like to see some further easing of restrictions.

“We really do want to make sure that we’ve got every chance of survival following the end of JobKeeper and ongoing border restrictions.”

The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) is returning to 100 per cent audience capacity, releasing new tickets and shows for 2021.

“After months of closure, and then only being able to operate at 50 per cent capacity, it’s wonderful that we are able to bring artists and audiences together in greater numbers again,” QPAC chief executive John Kotzas said.

All 93 Queensland MPs will also be allowed back into the House when State Parliament resumes next week. Each MP has an allocated seat.

“I think this is great for democracy,” D’Ath said.

“It means that we can function in a much more normal environment”.

D’Ath urged organisations to have another look at their COVID-safe plans, to make sure they are up to date and reflect this week’s changes.

“There are restrictions being put in place and decisions made by organisations and businesses that don’t need to be there,” she said.

The next big decision comes at the end of the month, when Young reviews Queensland’s borders, which for now, remain closed to greater Sydney, Victoria and Adelaide.

– ABC / Jessica van Vonderen

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