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New cases prompt SA rethink on NSW border opening

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South Australian health authorities are looking “very carefully” at six new COVID-19 cases reported in New South Wales today to determine whether a hopeful September border reopening can go ahead, while talks are also underway to fast-track an easing of restrictions with the ACT.

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SA Premier Steven Marshall said he was still optimistic that South Australia could reopen its border to New South Wales and the ACT in two weeks, provided the new cases reported today are not found to have been caused by community transmission.

Of the six new cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, one is a returned traveller in hotel quarantine and five are locally acquired with the source not yet identified.

It comes as Marshall yesterday announced travellers from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland would be allowed to travel into South Australia via Sydney and Canberra Airports without the need to self-isolate for 14 days.

He said today that health authorities would look “very carefully” at the epi-link of the six new NSW cases to determine whether South Australia could lift the mandatory isolation requirement for anyone travelling from NSW and the ACT.

“I know one was a returned Australian citizen coming back in a quarantine hotel (but) we don’t have the epi-link for the other five, so (SA chief public health officer) Nicola Spurrier will be sitting down with the chief health officer from New South Wales looking at those to determine what sort of risk that would pose,” he said.

“What often happens is when it is reported we get told ‘unknown source’.

“If it remained ‘unknown source’ that would essentially be community transmission and that would be a worry, but often a day later or two days later that epi-link is established, so that’s what we’re very hopeful for.

“We are certainly at the transition committee looking to lift that restriction when we can do so safely – we certainly won’t be doing that beforehand.”

The ACT meanwhile has reported no new coronavirus cases since July, but Marshall has previously said that the potential for people from New South Wales to bypass restrictions by travelling into Adelaide via Canberra has prevented a territory border reopening.

“In the ACT we haven’t had an example of community transmission for an extraordinary long time and now we sort of need to determine whether or not we can separate the ACT and New South Wales out,” he said today.

“That’s some of the work that the transition committee is doing at the moment.”

It comes as South Australia this afternoon will submit its proposal to host this year’s AFL grand final, with Marshall to present to the AFL committee tomorrow.

He said Adelaide was in a “great position” to host what could be a Port Adelaide home final because South Australia had done “extraordinarily well” at managing the COVID-10 health risk and the state’s borders were already open to most states.

But he said South Australia would not do “anything that sets back the enviable position that we’ve created”.

“The AFL grand final is not until the second half of October so I think there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge,” Marshall said.

“I think quite frankly what it will come down to is where is the safest place to play this AFL grand final and I think that is very likely to be Adelaide.”

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