Australia

Why can spectators still attend matches at stadiums, despite transmission of the COVID-19 Delta strain?

Spectators will be able to attend major sporting events at Brisbane’s Lang Park this weekend despite a similar event in Melbourne being linked to an outbreak of a highly infectious COVID-19 strain. 

Lang Park is due to host the Australia vs France Rugby Union test match on Saturday, followed by back-to-back NRL matches on Sunday.

On the Gold Coast, Robina stadium will host back-to-back NRL games on Saturday and Sunday.

The events are going ahead even though two new cases of the highly infectious Delta strain of COVID-19 have emerged in south-east Queensland in the past 24 hours.

Authorities said one case, a woman in home quarantine, presented “zero risk” to the community.

But the second case — a Brisbane International Airport worker — has so far had 23 close contacts and 22 casual contacts, according to Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.

Last weekend, spectators at a Geelong-Carlton AFL game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) sparked an outbreak of the Delta variant.

Victorian health authorities confirmed four individuals who were not known to each other, and all attended the match at the MCG, had contracted the Delta variant.

One of the infected people also attended a Wallabies vs France Rugby Union match in Melbourne on Tuesday night.

Queensland Health require spectators to:

  • Always wear a mask when travelling to and from games and in crowds
  • Wear a mask when entering, exiting, or moving around Lang Park
  • Avoid mingling before entering the stadium

Asked about Queensland’s sporting events on Friday, Dr Young said she was confident any infections could be traced if there was an outbreak, especially if fans were diligent about mask-wearing.

Dr Jeannette Young says she’s “not got concerns” about contact tracing in stadiums.(

AAP: Darren England

)

“The most important thing is you need to put your mask on as soon as you leave your home to go to any of these matches and not take it off till you are safely seated,” Dr Young said.

“We know where people are sat in stadiums. The stadiums have been extremely good in their plans.”

Dr Young said the biggest risk was when people mingled before they entered the stadium.

“Once they are seated, we can then work out who is seated around them,” she said.

“I’ve not got concerns. We can contact trace, we can manage. “

Crowds at the State of Origin decider
There were few masks in sight at the State of Origin decider at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast.(

ABC News: Tara Cassidy

)

Public transport poses major risk

Dr Young said public transport was a different issue.

“But we have no idea when people get on to public transport, who they have been with,” she said.

“[The Transport and Main Roads Department] have been great, giving us data when they can, when people swipe in.

“But it’s much, much harder than people on the street. We don’t know.

Professor Nigel McMillan
Professor Nigel McMillan says the Chief Health Officer’s advice is the “right call”.

Dr Young’s stance has been backed by a Queensland researcher who is part of a team pioneering a treatment for COVID patients.

Griffith University infectious diseases expert Nigel McMillan said he thought Queensland health authorities were making the “right call” after considering the situation in Melbourne.

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What are the Delta and Delta Plus COVID-19 variants?

“The difference is in Queensland, we know where [the infections] have come from and the level of community transfer of Delta is at a very early stage,” Professor McMillan said.

“This is why the Chief Health Officer feels comfortable with those [measures].”

Professor McMillan said the Queensland government appears to have become more pragmatic in its handling of the pandemic.

He also stressed the importance of mask-wearing.

“We see from studies involving earlier viruses that if both parties are wearing masks, then there is about an 80 per cent reduction in transmission,” he said.

Professor McMillan said he expects more cases to emerge in Melbourne over the weekend linked to the infected person who attended the Wallabies match on Tuesday.

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