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“It’s such weird, weird news”: South Australian hospitality industry allowed to reopen on Sunday as state exits the country’s shortest, strictest lockdown

“What is going on?”

Farida Ayubi at Adelaide's Parwana Afghan Kitchen.

Josie Withers (main)

South Australian restaurants, cafés and pubs will be allowed to open from Sunday as the statewide hard lockdown lifts three days early.

From 12:01am on Sunday 22 November, hospitality venues will be allowed to reopen with density limits of one person per four square metres, with a maximum cap of 100 people. Table bookings will be limited to 10 people, and all patrons must be seated.

These rules are the same restrictions placed on the hospitality industry on Tuesday as cases linked to the Parafield cluster grew.

In a press conference this afternoon, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said he was “fuming” after a man lied to contact tracers, triggering the statewide lockdown.

“These selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation. His actions have affected businesses, individuals, family groups and is completely and utterly unacceptable,” the Premier said.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announces the statewide lockdown will lift three days earlier than scheduled.

(Photo: Getty)

“It’s such weird, weird news”

The hospitality industry is reeling from the state government’s announcement just two days into the planned six-day lockdown.

“It’s such weird, weird news. Everyone in Adelaide is thinking: what is going on?,” says Durkhanai Ayubi of Parwana Afghan Kitchen in Torrensville.

“You get yourself psychologically ready [for lockdown], and prepare for that emotionally … [then] we’re back on, and everybody’s scrambling the other way.”

She says the state government will likely receive “backlash” for the backflip, but concedes authorities enacted the lockdown based on the information that had been provided. “You wouldn’t take the risk the other way would you?”

Daisy Miller, co-owner of Soi 38 in the CBD, is frustrated state authorities appear to be shifting the blame to an individual. She says the government has a responsibility to corroborate stories, and enact a proportionate response to perceived threats to public health and safety.

“Our government should have learned and identified those risks, and [enacted] precautions to make sure people are telling the truth,” she says. “I understand how difficult contact tracing is, but the idea that a government body is coming out and blaming an individual, who potentially comes from a background where you can’t trust the government … I was genuinely shocked.”

She says the public’s trust in the South Australian government to effectively manage COVID-19, from a health and economic perspective, is “shaky”.

“It’s very hard to have confidence that this kind of thing isn’t going to happen every time.”

The dining room at Adelaide’s Soi 38.

(Photo: Andrea Jacob)

But there’s relief, too

However, restaurant owners have expressed overall relief the lockdown is being lifted early, and are planning to reopen their businesses next week.

Once restrictions lift on Sunday, staff at Soi 38 will return to ready the restaurant. Monday will be spent restocking the kitchen and organising postponed bookings, in time for service on Tuesday. “The reopening takes longer than the closing,” says Miller.

“I’m definitely grateful we’re opening, but it all seems so unnecessary. So much energy and effort.”

Ayubi agrees. “It’s so confusing and disruptive in the immediate term … but in the bigger picture, there is definitely relief,” she says.

“We’ll get there. It’s just a big, annoying blip.”

This story was updated on Friday 20 November, 3:17pm

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