Australian health officials have express concerns over the crowds that were stranded outside of rugby stadiums on Friday due to a ticketing system failure. Thousands were stranded for an extended period outside AFL and NRL games due to a Ticketek mobile system outage, raising fears that a spike in COVID cases could result.
“It’s important that anyone who went (to that game) and does become sick, that they do come forward and get tested so we can do what we need to do,” says Dr. Jeannette Young, chief health officer for Brisbane, where Suncorp Stadium is located.
Over 20,000 fans were stranded outside of Suncorp for at least 15 minutes due to the system outage, at which point stadium officials let them in without checking tickets or bags. Numerous fans were also stranded outside another stadium in another city, though the numbers are believed to be far lower.
Australia has been one of the more fortunate nations in terms of its dealing with the coronavirus, with only 27,429 known cases and fewer than 1,000 deaths tied to the virus, according to worldometers.info. The fact that so many fans were stranded outside of the stadium is a factor of that fact, with local authorities having allowed tickets sold to 70 percent of the stadium capacity at Suncorp. Saturday’s AFL Grand Final will see 75 percent of its stadium capacity allowed to attend.
Dr. Young expressed hopes that should any COVID cases arise out of the mobile ticketing failure and subsequent crowd crush, the contact tracing allowed by seating charts and user data from the system will help with isolation protocols. Anyone seated within a certain distance of a person known to have a positive test result would be contacted with instructions for isolation and testing.
“It’s low risk, we don’t have any cases in the community… but the sewage results means there might be cases,” Dr. Young said, referencing testing performed on the public sewage systems, which can detect community spread of the virus including asymptomatic individuals.
Two potential hurdles exist in terms of that being foolproof – the fact that fans could have been standing near many other individuals during the initial delay outside of the stadium where there is no record of the proximity, and that many reportedly sat in areas outside of their seats when they first arrived due to the ticketing snafu.
It will likely be weeks before any meaningful analysis of whether or not the incident caused any significant spread of COVID.