South Australia to shut down for six days on COVID-19 outbreak fears

South Australia to shut down for six days on COVID-19 outbreak fears

From midnight tonight all but essential businesses will close, and people must remain inside for six days in South Australia as authorities enforce wide-ranging restrictions to curb an outbreak of COVID-19.

The state will go on "pause" for six days as public health authorities engage in a contact tracing blitz to get on top of a COVID-19 outbreak

That outbreak has since grown by two more cases today, and health authorities have determined it was sparked by a medi-hotel security guard working part time at the Woodville Pizza Bar.

Masks must be worn when leaving the house, however the state's health officials have encouraged all South Australians to remain at home.

Only one person per household per day will be allowed to leave the house to go grocery shopping.

Schools and universities will close, takeaway food restaurants will not be allowed to operate, and pubs, cafes and coffee shops must shut their doors.

Weddings and funerals will be banned, outdoor sport and exercise will not be permitted, aged care facilities will go into total lockdown, and the construction sector and factories must shut down.

Fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers have been put on standstill, regional travel has been completely banned, and holiday homes will not be available for lease.

Essential services including supermarkets, medical and mental health services, petrol stations, post offices and financial institutions will be allowed to continue to operate. End of life visits will be allowed during the period.

"We need a circuit breaker," SA Premier Steven Marshall said.

"We are going hard and we are going early. Time is of the essence, and we must act swiftly and decisively. We cannot wait to see how bad this becomes."

Marshall says the state has welcomed contact tracing help from the Commonwealth Government, Western Australia and from New South Wales to get on top of the outbreak.

Measures "extreme" but necessary

The state's chief health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier has acknowledged the lockdown measures are "extreme", but insists they are necessary to slow the spread of the virus.

Some restrictions will remain in place for a further eight days at least once the six-day lockdown period is over.

"It really is extreme. And then after that we need 14 days in total in terms of the incubation period of the virus and the number of generations, so we've had to sit down and mathematically work it out," Professor Spurrier said.

"So for a 14-day period there will be significant restrictions, but my hope is that it should not need to be what we have done for the six days."

"I was also very surprised that we didn't have a little pockets in our community that popped up from time to time, but clearly if it is reintroduced into a community it takes off very quickly. And that's exactly what had happened in Victoria. I don't want that to happen here in South Australia and I'm going to do everything possible to make sure that it doesn't happen."

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens acknowledges the strict rules will be difficult to police, so he has called upon the community in the state to take responsibility during the lockdown period.

"Policing can only provide so much in terms of providing a safe environment for the community; it relies on the community doing the right thing and supporting each other, so our expectation is people will do the right thing, they'll abide by this extreme level of imposition for a short period of time and help us do our job," Stevens said.

"Clearly, if you're out and about during these six days, you should have the ability to justify your reason for your travel.

"We will be out there and we will be making sure people are doing the right thing."

COVID-19 strain spreading fast in SA

According to Spurrier the particular strain of COVID-19 circulating in SA has a short incubation period, meaning when somebody is exposed it takes 24 hours or less for that person to become infectious to others.

Because of the short incubation period Spurrier says the virus is currently in its fifth generation in the community.

"We don't have any time to wait," Spurrier said.

"If I just thought about this all day and then told the Police Commissioner and the Premier tonight we would already be 12 hours behind."

"If we leave this any longer and if we have people moving around the community and having a lot of contact with other people then we're going to be in this for the long haul."

Medi-hotel outbreak

Professor Spurrier also explained COVID-19 escaped from Adelaide's medi-hotels because a security guard was working at both the Peppers Hotel and part-time making pizza.

"We also had the person at the Stamford, and we couldn't connect the two," Spurrier said.

"But what we found last night was another person that worked at the pizza bar and we were able to connect those two because of time links."

Police Commissioner Stevens said there were no rules or restrictions to stop a medi-hotel security guard from working a second job part time.

"We are relying heavily on the security industry, and they are supporting us to a substantial level to ensure that we are maintaining a safe as possible environment in the medi-hotel.

"We can't quarantine these people [guards] when they're not at work. They are able to participate in normal community activities now whether that's participating in sport or taking on another part time job, the level of engagement with the community in terms of how they do that is irrelevant.

"We can't quarantine these people simply because they're assisting us by working in quarantine hotels."

Stay at home, Adelaide

Spurrier has encouraged South Australians to hunker down for the next six days until the situation comes under control.

"This is going to put a lot of strain on many people, and this is the time to be patient, to be calm and to trust in people that are there to support you," Spurrier said.

"We all need to look after each other there's no point panicking and rushing out to the shops and buying up lots of toilet paper.

"We are really at the beginning of this in South Australia and I need everybody to basically find a safe place to be for the next six days, and stay there as much as possible."

South Australians will be permitted to leave the home for testing, but health authorities will prioritise those who have been told to get tested by the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB).

"So the one thing that we definitely want people to do is during this six-day period is to get tested, but we are going to prioritise our testing," Spurrier said.

Updated at 1.16pm AEDT on 18 November 2020.

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