‘It takes one slip’: Warning as SA ‘critical’
A leading Australian epidemiologist has given a warning to the nation as South Australia holds its breath over the next 12 "critical" hours.
Officials are racing against the clock to contain the spread of the virus in the state, while the premier has issued advice to residents to wear masks on public transport and where it's not possible to socially distance.
On Monday South Australian premier Steven Marshall told residents his "unequivocal priority" was keeping the people of the state safe and strong but noted "time is now of the essence and we must act swiftly and decisively".
"We cannot wait to see how bad this gets," he said, as the cluster rose to up to 19 overnight, with at least 15 cases from the one family.
The Australian Defence Force has been called for assistance, states are shutting borders and a new health alert was issued overnight from SA Health urging everyone who was in the Emergency Department at Lyell McEwin Hospital between 5.30pm Friday 13 November and 8.00am Saturday 14 November to get tested and contact officials.
A number of schools and a Hungry Jack's have been forced into lockdown as the radius of the spread continues to grow.
New COVID restrictions are being reimposed in South Australia after the troubling outbreak in Adelaide's northern suburbs over the weekend that was a first for the state since April and which has thrown more doubt over Australia's border reopenings.
Health officials anticipate new COVID-19 restrictions imposed on residents overnight will be in place for at least two weeks.
We are implementing immediate restrictions from midnight tonight, to limit the transmission of coronavirus in #SouthAustralia.— Steven Marshall, MP (@marshall_steven) November 16, 2020
Time is of the essence and we are acting swiftly and decisively to stay ahead. pic.twitter.com/phjdcygqCV
From Tuesday gyms, recreation centres, trampoline and play cafes will close, while community sport will be cancelled but outdoor bootcamps can continue.
Hospitality venues will be capped at 100, while bookings will be capped at 10. No stand-up drinking will be permitted.
Wedding guests must register their attendance, while funerals have been capped at 50 people. Church services will be capped at 100 people.
Masks will be mandatory for people providing personal care services, such as nail salons, tattoo parlours and hair dressers, and masks will be encouraged for clients too.
Work from home advice stating it should be done "where possible", has also been reinforced. The government also advised residents to avoid visitors and against any unnecessary travel.
Dr Emma Miller, a senior lecturer and epidemiologist from Flinders University, told ABC News: "We are in a pandemic, this is the nature of the beast".
She said despite South Australia's "world class" public health system, it "does not necessarily mean we can get on top of this outbreak".
"Absolutely it's inevitable, it takes one slip, one slight bit of inattention … and off we go again.
"We have the right public health system to be able to do so, but that doesn't mean we necessarily will because this is a very effective disease, we don't know how long it's actually been in the community."
Dr Miller warned Australians have "got to a bit of a level of complacency in the population with testing" and we "don't really know whether we can get on top of it".
She said uncertainties in human behaviour and lapses of attention will inevitably result in the "occasional bit of leakage". She suggested a quarantine facility that was removed from major Australian CBD's that could contain "any leakages that will occur".
"This is a worldwide problem, we have a huge wave of viral infections literally bearing down on us even though we are an island state.
"We're living in a pandemic, this is the reality of a pandemic, that we will always be under the pressure of the magnitude of the viral exposure that's pressing down on us.
"There is absolutely no such thing as no risk."
Doctor Miller said that there may be "other cases lurking" in South Australia.
⚠ COVID-19 Health Alert 16 November 2020 (8.43pm) ⚠— SA Health (@SAHealth) November 16, 2020
New location added. Visit https://t.co/DgtxIrbEQG for the latest COVID-19 health alerts.
To find a location to get a COVID-19 test visit https://t.co/i1WQMpTezv pic.twitter.com/gngc5Pl4EM
Meanwhile Mr Marshall has accepted an offer of defence force assistance from Prime Minister Scott Morrison as it tries to contain the outbreak.
"The virus hasn't gone anywhere. It's still there and it will seek to exploit any vulnerability how small or great and that's why there are layers to our defence," the PM said.
It is yet uncertain in which capacity the ADF will play a role.
The state saw huge turnouts at testing facilities on Monday as residents flocked in panic over the cluster, with warnings that hundreds may have been exposed to the deadly virus after the positive cases travelled and shopped around the city.
Mr Marshall confirmed all international flights into South Australia have also been suspended while the NT health department ordered popular tourist train the Ghan, which connects Adelaide and Darwin, to turnaround on what was to be the final trip of the season.
Health officials are on board the Ghan right now, screening 221 passengers who arrived from Adelaide this afternoon. They’ll be given the option to disembark and quarantine in Alice Springs for two weeks, or stay on board and return to SA. @abcdarwin pic.twitter.com/161RyFOuFD— Melissa Mackay (@_melissamackay) November 16, 2020
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan on Monday afternoon reintroduced a hard border closure for the neighbouring state, starting from 6pm except for "strict exemption" categories.
Queensland has announced they too will be closing off the border to parts of South Australia from midnight tonight.
Northern Territory's Chief Minister Michael Gunner closed the borders to the Top End to the entire state of South Australia "effective immediately".
Moments later, Tasmania's Premier Peter Gutwein announced his state would also be implementing new border measures for visitors from South Australia, urging anyone who had entered since November 8 to self isolate at their hotel or place of residence for 14 days.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, whose own state has come out the other side of a devastating second wave of the disease, has followed suit.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, however, said her state would not be making any changes to current border arrangements, meaning residents flying in from South Australia can enter the state freely without going in to mandatory quarantine.
South Australia chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said despite the panic there have been no more positive cases returned yet. Officials will be anxiously awaiting results on Tuesday after the slew of tests taken yesterday.
"What we do want is people with symptoms to get tested because if we have a lot of the worried well come out and get tested, it does mean that our turnaround time might blow out," she said in a press conference Monday.
"Those people with symptoms we make sure that those get on the run the quickest."
Originally published as 'It takes one slip': Warning as SA 'critical'