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No quick SA entry likely for Victorians

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Victorians might have to wait for up to 28 days of no reported cases of community transmission before they are allowed to travel to South Australia, SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens says, after the eastern state today reached its second straight day of no new COVID-19 cases.

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Stevens told reporters after this morning’s transition committee meeting that no decisions had been made to relax public gathering restrictions, but the committee had discussed how it might ease South Australia’s hard border closure with Victoria.

He said COVID-19 case numbers were looking “very good for Victoria”, but “it’s also about identifying what that point is where we have enough confidence that we can relax the borders”.

“The primary concern is unidentified community transmission,” he said.

“We’re looking at Victoria to get through a period where there’s no community transmission, or if there is community transmission, they can identify that source (and) they can cap that off.

“We require people to quarantine for 14 days so we’re satisfied that they are not carrying the virus – that they’re not infected – so it’s somewhere between 14 and 28 days (of no community transmission) depending on how Victoria are tracking.”

South Australia only waited for 14 days of no unidentified community transmission in New South Wales before it reopened its border to that state last month.

But Stevens said authorities would likely take a more cautious approach when it comes to reopening the border to Victorians.

South Australia currently has a hard border closure in place with Victoria, which essentially prohibits all travel into SA, with exemptions for essential workers.

“We’ve taken a risk-based approach where we’ve made decisions based on the 14-day period, which is one incubation cycle of the virus,” he said.

“When you look at the incidences of Victoria and the troubles they’ve had it may well be the case that (SA) Health would be looking for two incubation cycles (28 days) to be confident that they’ve really got a lid on the virus.”

Victoria today reported no new COVID-19 cases and deaths for the second day in a row.

The last time the state had two consecutive days of no new cases was in early March.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday announced a major easing of Melbourne restrictions from midnight tonight, with all retail, café, restaurants and pubs to reopen with restrictions on numbers.

Stevens said SA Health was monitoring Victoria’s case numbers “very closely in terms of when they are satisfied that the risk of unidentified community transmission is virtually eliminated”.

He refused to speculate on whether South Australia could reopen its border by Christmas, but the first step of a relaxation would likely involve allowing Victorians to quarantine for 14 days at a private residence as opposed to a designated medi-hotel.

“The hard border would be the first thing that we would lift, but then free travel between South Australia would be that next step,” he said.

“As much as I’d like to put a timeframe on that you simply can’t put a timeframe on it.

“I know there are so many people who are hopeful we can allow free travel between Victoria and South Australia, but if they go well in Victoria then obviously things look good.”

South Australia’s transition committee also reviewed restrictions on public gatherings, including those imposed on hospitality venues.

Hoteliers in particular have recently called on the committee to ease restrictions, saying they are losing profit from patron caps and a ban on people drinking alcohol while standing.

“There were no decisions at this point, but it is actively being considered and we will see what decisions we can make going forward,” Stevens said.

“I wouldn’t envision there would be any changes to density requirements of one person per two square-metres at this stage.

“But the gathering sizes are certainly something we are looking at in terms of what can we safely allow in a COVID-19 context.”

The transition committee will meet again next Tuesday.

– with AAP

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