South Australia’s top health official left many bewildered after doling out bizarre advice to football fans, instructing them to “duck” if the ball flies into the stands. She later clarified the comment after a wave of mockery.
The state’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier made the strange recommendation during a press conference on Wednesday, when she also announced that an Australian Football League team from Melbourne would be permitted to enter South Australia for an upcoming match, despite ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.
“We’re looking at the ball… I have noticed occasionally the ball gets kicked into the crowd, we are working through the details of what that will mean,” Spurrier said confidently, after she was asked about the potential of exposure for ground-level spectators at the Adelaide Oval stadium.
If you are at Adelaide Oval and the ball comes towards you, my advice to you is to duck and just do not touch that ball.
— Mark Stevens (@Stevo7AFL) June 2, 2021
Though Spurrier acknowledged she hadn’t been to “many football games” before pleading with fans to avoid the ball at all costs, her counsel triggered an outpouring of memes and laughter from Australians on Twitter.
@MoreiraNorberto She said it with a straight face😐
— Brian Badonde (@robdaly1984) June 2, 2021
Enjoy 👌 pic.twitter.com/9ar39i3N6O
— PatRick27 (@Patrick27E) June 2, 2021
Local media even spoke with epidemiologist Tony Blakely to probe the possible transmission risk. Failing to keep a straight face for the interview, the expert said the chance of catching Covid-19 from an AFL ball is “quite minimal,” adding that Spurrier’s comments were nonetheless “amusing.”
Epidemiologist @TonyBlakely_PI says the risk of catching coronavirus from a footy ball is “quite minimal.”It comes after South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier warned fans attending Collingwood’s upcoming #AFL game not to touch the match ball. pic.twitter.com/j9iwAzN5U3
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) June 2, 2021
Spurrier appeared for another press conference on Thursday to clarify the previous day’s advice, taking the mockery in her stride after being briefed by more “football knowledgeable” colleagues.
“Just to reiterate: I am not a football player and, in fact, whenever a ball comes to me – whatever sort of ball, whether it’s a football, a basketball – my inclination is to duck,” she joked.
I’ve had a bit of an update from some more football-knowledgeable people in my department today to tell me that there’s about 50% of people that really try madly to get the ball and there’s 50% of people that are like me and just duck.
However, the health chief didn’t make it through the later press conference before handing yet more material to the Twitter peanut gallery, voicing misgivings about coming into contact with an “object touched by… very sweaty men on a football field,” while urging fans to sanitize their hands regularly.
Professor Nicola Spurrier has backtracked from yesterday’s “duck” from the ball comments, she says after “sweaty men” touch the ball on the football field and it flies into the crowd…just use hand sanitiser. 👍🏼 @abcadelaidepic.twitter.com/FzgqvYefeo
— Sarah Mullins (née Hancock) (@sarahmullins) June 3, 2021
SA CHO Professor Nicola Spurrier: “I’ve had an update from some more football knowledgeable people in my department to tell me there’s about 50% of people that really try madly to get ball and there’s about 50% of people that are like me and just duck.”So, do you …
— Ben Waterworth (@bjwaterworth) June 3, 2021
Fortunately for spectators at Adelaide Oval, AFL players are screened for the coronavirus prior to every match, while the stadium will keep the first two rows from ground level empty to avoid potential exposure. The latter move was done at the health chief’s behest, telling reporters that this “was a little bit of an ask for the AFL but they’ve managed to accommodate that.”
Concerns about the upcoming match between Collingwood and Adelaide have run high given that the former team hails from Victoria, which has borne the brunt of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak and is currently facing a new cluster of cases. South Australia health officials insist the game will be a “very safe, low-risk activity,” arguing that both the stadium and the teams are abiding by pandemic protocols and taking every precaution to avoid spreading the illness.