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"A clear threat to public health": New crackdown on Vic arrivals, nightclubs to close again

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BREAKING | Non-South Australian residents will be banned from crossing into the state from Victoria as the Marshall Government branded soaring COVID-19 cases “a clear threat to public health in SA”.

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It comes as authorities retreat from last week’s move to allow nightclubs to reopen, with Police Commissioner Grant Stevens declaring CBD nightspots would be forced to close their doors again until they had an authorised COVID-19 management plan.

SA plans to open its borders to New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from July 20, but Stevens warned after a meeting of the state’s Transition Committee today that the situation would be monitored to ensure there was no spike in those jurisdictions as a result of people travelling from Victoria, which today recorded 191 new cases of coronavirus as it prepared for the closure of its own border with NSW.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has now declared that Melbourne will be put back into lockdown for six weeks amid the outbreak.

SA Health Minister Stephen Wade said Victoria “is now a clear threat to public health in South Australia” and had prompted renewed border restrictions.

“As of midnight tomorrow night, only South Australian residents travelling from Victoria will be allowed to quarantine in SA for 14 days,” Stevens said.

“People not residing in SA will not have that option available to them.”

The Commissioner said travellers who met essential traveller criteria “will be required to quarantine when not undertaking those duties” – and would be compelled to wear Personal Protective Equipment, including face masks, when interacting with the SA community.

In addition, travel between cross-border communities will be further restricted, with SAPOL talking to the Australian Defence Force about sending reinforcements.

“All roads into SA from the South-East will have stronger controls,” Stevens said.

“We’ll have static checkpoints and some roads will be closed, with physical borders put in place.”

However, travel between SA and NSW is likely to soon be easier, with the Transition Committee reinstating the Monday after SA school holidays as the day the border will open.

In the meantime, NSW and ACT residents “will still be able to travel to SA and undertake 14 days quarantine [and] we’ll continue to monitor the potential for any seeding of COVID-19 in NSW and ACT” from Victorian arrivals.

“Our goal is to relax the restrictions on July 20, and we’ll monitor that as we move forward,” Stevens said.

“Most jurisdictions are now reconsidering their attitude in terms of Victorians travelling to their jurisdictions, and SA is no different.”

He said the new measures would be in place for “at least two weeks, potentially up to a month” and maybe beyond that depending on whether Victoria’s caseloads ease.

“We need to consider the broader health implications of allowing free movement into SA from an area which has not got on top of the virus,” he said.

However, eased restrictions in SA have been thrust back in the spotlight, after crowd misbehaviour in the city’s nightclub districts flared on the first weekend of their reopening.

Nightclubs were permitted to reopen, but with venues not allowed to accommodate dancing and alcohol service at the same time without a management plan in place.

“As a result of concerning activities in the CBD, nightclubs will be restricted from trading until they have a COVID-19 management plan,” Stevens declared, saying there had been “significant” problems with crowd behaviour and “several warnings were given in relation to the way [venues] managed their operations”.

Without a detailed plan signed off from health authorities, he said, “we’ll be preventing nightclubs from trading”.

“We were quite concerned about some of the activities we saw in the CBD on the weekend [including] a total lack of social distancing.”

SA is bracing for more COVID-19 cases, with hundreds currently in supervised quarantine after returning from overseas, including 50 arrivals this morning on a Singapore flight.

Stevens said the state had a cap on such arrivals and “we won’t accept flights if it exceeds that cap”.

SA recorded no new COVID-19 cases today, though chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told reporters: “Nationwide, we’re really, really in a difficult situation at the moment… the numbers in Victoria are absolutely worrying.”

She urged South Australians to be vigilant, including getting testing for COVID-19 if they developed cold or flu-like symptoms.

“I can understand why people are relaxing, ok? It doesn’t look there’s a problem [in SA] – but there is a problem [in Victoria] and we could have the same situation here.”

She said it was “only a matter of time” before SA recorded new cases.

It comes as Melbourne was this afternoon ordered back into lockdown, with Andrews confirming people in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, north of the city, will only be able to leave their homes to shop for food and supplies, to receive or provide care, to exercise, and to study or work if they can’t do so from home.

The new lockdown will be in place from midnight tomorrow and will be in place for six weeks.

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