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Australian state lets sports fans back in stadiums as COVID-19 cases slow

Written by corres2

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FILE PHOTO: Police officers patrol near the Sydney Opera House following the implementation of stricter social-distancing and self-isolation rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY (Reuters) – As Australia moves ahead with relaxing a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a state government gave the all clear for more than 2,000 fans to attend an Australian Rules Football game at a stadium in Adelaide this weekend.

“Football and crowds are back in South Australia,” Steven Marshall, South Australia’s premier told reporters in the state capital on Tuesday, heralding the match between the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide.

Professional sport was allowed to resume in Australia last month after a two-month hiatus, but it will become one of the first nations to admit spectators to stadiums as lockdowns begin to be relaxed in many countries.

Australia has suffered at least 102 COVID-19 deaths and about 7,200 infections, but it has not reported a death for more than a week, and new cases have dwindled to less than 20 daily.

The government has pledged to remove the bulk of social distancing restrictions by the end of July, though some states are moving slower than others.

Last Saturday, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity with U.S. protesters angered by the death of a black man in police custody.

While the lockdown and social distancing measures have slowed the spread of COVID-19, the economy has taken a hit, with data released last week showing it had tipped into recession, but officials tried to strike a positive note.

“Given the improved health outlook for Australia, the impact of COVID-19 on the economy will be smaller,” Steven Kennedy, secretary to Australia’s Treasury department told lawmakers in Canberra.

“However, this will still be the single biggest economic shock Australia has faced in living memory.”

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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