State government says strict measures necessary to get on top of contact tracing and testing.
South Australia announced on Wednesday a six-day “circuit breaker” lockdown for the state’s nearly two million people, as it moved to contain a sudden surge in coronavirus cases that ended months with hardly any infections.
A series of wide-ranging restrictions will be imposed from midnight to allow a measure of “breathing space” for contact tracing, South Australia state Premier Steven Marshall said, after 22 cases of the virus were reported in Adelaide, the state’s capital.
“We need this circuit breaker, this community pause,” he said. “This is about South Australia pausing so that we stay ahead of the virus,” he said.
“We are going hard and we are going early. Time is of the essence and we must act swiftly and decisively.”
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier noted the particular strain of the virus involved in the latest outbreak had a “very, very short incubation period,” and it could take just 24 hours or less for a person exposed to it to become infectious.
She said the measures would give the state of 1.8 million people time to halt the chain of transmission.
“I cannot be making this decision in two or three weeks’ time or even two or three days’ time because it is going to be too late,” she said.
The new rules will come into force at midnight and require all schools, restaurants and factories to close.
Stay-at-home orders will be issued for residents across the state, with only one person from each household allowed to go outside each day for essential purposes.
Anyone leaving their home will have to wear a mask.
Residential homes for the elderly and disabled people will be locked down and all weddings and funerals suspended.
The latest outbreak is linked to an Australian who arrived in the state capital Adelaide from overseas on November 2 and entered mandatory hotel quarantine. A cleaner is believed to have contracted the virus after touching a contaminated surface and two security guards at the facility were also diagnosed with the virus.
Two new cases linked to the cluster were announced on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total cases since the pandemic began to 551. There are concerns the latest outbreak has the potential to infect high-risk populations, with care workers and a prison guard among those testing positive.
The announcement prompted long queues at COVID-19 testing centres and a rush to supermarkets where toilet rolls quickly sold out.
— Bryce Heaton (@bryceheaton9) November 18, 2020
Elsewhere in Australia, Victoria state, which was the epicentre of the country’s nearly 28,000 cases until last month and where people in Melbourne endured weeks of a strict lockdown and curfew, marked its 19th straight day without reporting a new case.
New South Wales reported zero local and seven imported cases.
Other states in Australia have already imposed new quarantine rules on anyone travelling from South Australia as a result of the outbreak in the state.