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Dozens quarantined, 1100 into isolation as SA COVID-cluster grows

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UPDATED | Around 70 young South Australians will be placed into immediate quarantine at a city “medi-hotel”, and another 1100 people told to self-isolate until mid-August, as SA Health took dramatic action after a fifth COVID-19 case emerged late today in a cluster associated with a school in Adelaide’s inner-west.

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Thebarton Senior College, a specialist Government secondary school with a large proportion of adult learners, will be closed after another young woman in her 20s was late today confirmed as the fifth person linked to the facility to test positive for coronavirus.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the so-called “Thebarton cluster” had prompted “immediate precautionary action to reduce the risk of the cluster spreading” so that “a case doesn’t become a cluster and a cluster become an outbreak”.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas and his deputy Susan Close are tonight seeking reassurances they do not need to join more than 1000 “casual contacts” of the student told to self-isolate, after visiting the campus last Thursday.

Thebarton Senior College offers 100 programs to its students, with classes offered up until 7pm. Today, with Susan…

Posted by Peter Malinauskas on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

They have previously informed SA Health of the visit and been told they did not need to self-isolate.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier today told media: “Unfortunately we do have a new case that’s associated with what we’re calling the ‘Thebarton cluster’, which brings the total number of cases in that cluster to five.”

She said the woman was a “close contact of two of the cases” previously identified.

“We’ve transferred her to our medi-hotel… she has minimal symptoms and is stable, which is good news.”

However, contact tracing has revealed “a large number of close contacts” at the college, prompting drastic action: 70 people are today being transferred into immediate supervised quarantine in a city hotel – understood to be the Pullman Hotel, which has previously been used to quarantine returning overseas travellers.

“What we’ve decided is the safest place for these young people to quarantine is in our medi-hotel,” Spurrier said, insisting the move was “extremely precautionary at this stage”.

The school, which she said had several students who were adult learners from non-English-speaking backgrounds, “will be closed”, with the Education Department working on a plan for remote learning.

However, that will be hampered by a further decision to isolate all “casual contacts” of the known cases – including the rest of the school community, which numbers about 1100 staff and students.

“The students and staff at Thebarton Senior College are considered casual contacts [so] we will direct the students and staff to self-isolate until Saturday August 15,” Spurrier said.

“The rest of the school community – that’s the staff and teachers and those other students – will be asked to self-isolate.”

The Thebarton cluster stems from another woman in her 20s who visited the school – as well as Roma Mitchell Secondary College – while infectious, passing the disease to a close contact who subsequently attended various northern suburbs businesses. That woman was infected by a man who was attempting to self-isolate at the Walkers Arms Hotel.

Today’s case brings SA’s total to 457, with eight active cases.

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