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What we know today, Saturday November 21


Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Police identify pizza shop worker as SA records one new COVID-19 case

The man blamed for forcing South Australia into a hard lockdown has been identified as a 36-year-old Spaniard in Australia on a temporary visa as the state records one more COVID-19 case linked to the Parafield cluster.

The new case is the partner of a woman who tested positive earlier in the week, is already in quarantine and SA Health says he does not pose a public risk.

There are now 26 people infected with coronavirus in the cluster.

Meanwhile, the police probe to investigate misleading information given to contact tracers trying to contain the cluster has identified a 36-year-old man as the main person of interest.

The investigation has recruited 20 experienced detectives and is also seeking to speak with other people identified as close contacts of the Woodville Pizza Bar.

Premier Steven Marshall revealed yesterday that a person infected with the disease had “lied” about his work at Woodville Pizza Bar, considered a hotspot in the emerging outbreak.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told this morning’s press conference the person of interest was a 36-year-old man of Spanish origin legally in Australia on a graduate’s visa that is due to expire in mid-December.

“There is a spotlight that has been shone on the pizza bar now in the circumstances and we are interested in speaking with two other people,” he said.

The Government yesterday blamed the “lie” for causing the hard lockdown, which came into force on Thursday and ends tonight.

Stevens again reiterated this morning that the lockdown would not have happened if the man had provided honest answers in his initial contact tracing interview.

He said both he and chief medical officer Professor Nicola Spurrier were satisfied they made the right call to lock the state down based on the information they had at the time.

“We are taking a fair and objective approach to this. We would certainly encourage

people talking to our contact tracers to be upfront and honest,” Stevens said.

Professor Nicola Spurrier said there were now 5400 close contacts and their contacts in quarantine.

However, she said there were still about 40 close contacts that contact tracers had not been able to reach including families at Roma Mitchell Secondary School, close contacts of the Woodville Pizza Bar, students at Flinders University’s Sturt campus and contacts of close contacts to the AnglicareSA Brompton aged care facility.

SA Health has now enlisted the help of SA Police to track the people down and ensure they are in quarantine.

“That’s a big push today and we’ve got SAPOL helping us with that,” Spurrier said.

There is just one person in hospital with COVID-19 following the release of an 80-year-old woman to hotel quarantine this morning. She joins her husband who was released from hospital yesterday.

There were a record 19,000 COVID-19 tests done in SA yesterday with an average turnaround time of 28 hours.

Spurrier said testing times varied depending on the urgency of the test with the latest infection identified in just 90 minutes.

“We now have a system in place to focus on the people we are really keen to have tested … we can prioritise them and we can turn around those tests very promptly,” she said.

Marshall said the expert health advice suggested the Government was still managing a “very dangerous cluster”.

“Many people still needed to be identified and put into quarantine,” he said this morning.

“We are not out of the woods yet.”

Short-circuited lockdown reaches final day

South Australians have woken up to the last day of a short-lived hard lockdown, after authorities yesterday announced the strict restrictions would end three days early.

The six-day lockdown was supposed to end on Tuesday, but authorities decided to cut it short after discovering the case that triggered the restrictions had “deliberately” lied about his work at the Woodville Pizza Bar coronavirus hotspot.

The part-time employee, who contracted the virus from another infectious part-time worker, also works as a kitchenhand at the Stamford medi-hotel and misled contact tracing officers by telling them he bought a pizza at the shop and did not work there.

The lie meant there was no discernible link between his case and the so-called Parafield cluster, triggering the state into lockdown.

From midnight tonight, restrictions will revert back to the level imposed last Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s hard lockdown. Outdoor exercise already permitted.

But Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told reporters late yesterday that he did not want people “flocking to the beach” to exercise.

“The direction was put in place to ensure public safety,” he said.

“Please honour the principles of the direction (and) let’s just get through this short period of time.”

Under the new set of restrictions, hospitality venues will be able to reopen with capacity caps, public and private gatherings will be permitted, weddings and funerals are allowed and schools will reopen on Monday.

Gyms and shops will also be able to re-open but community sport is still banned.

A one person per four-square-metre social distancing requirement will be enforced in all public places. Private gatherings are capped at 50 while gatherings in private homes are limited to a maximum of 10.

A full list of the new restrictions is available here

The Parafield cluster continued to grow on Friday, with three new cases taking it to 25 confirmed infections.

 – Stephanie Richards

Task force to investigate pizza bar ‘lie’

SA Police has formed an “experienced task force” to investigate misleading information given to contact tracers trying to contain a COVID-19 cluster in Adelaide.

The task force will examine “multiple lines of inquiry” with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police.

Premier Steven Marshall revealed on Friday that a person infected with the disease had “lied” about his work at Woodville Pizza Bar, considered a hotspot in the emerging outbreak.

It prompted authorities to impose a six-day statewide lockdown on Thursday.

Assistant Commissioner Peter Harvey will head up Task Force Protect, which will look at all the circumstances surrounding information provided to SA Health’s contact tracing teams.

Harvey said the task force would involve 20 detectives and analysts and would report directly to him twice each day.

“It’s important amongst the high emotion that surrounds these circumstances that my investigation is thorough and fair,” he said.

“We will be looking at what legislation may or may not have been breached.

“It’s complex. It could span any number of potential legislation from the criminal law, through the Emergency Management Act or public health acts.”

Earlier on Friday, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the Emergency Management Act did not appear to give police powers to take any further action against the man involved.

But he said those provisions would be reviewed and made it clear that had the man not given misleading information, the six-day statewide lockdown would not have been imposed.

Marshall said it was an “absolute understatement” to say he was “fuming” about the actions of the man involved.

“The selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation,” he said.

More hot spot locations added around growing Parafield cluster

New hotspot locations have been added by SA Health as the Parafield cluster continues to grow.

SA Structural in Edinburgh was added as a high-risk location by SA Health at 10.45pm last night due to a link with a positive case.

Anyone who was at SA Structural, 40-45 Kaurana Ave Edinburgh, between 7.30am and 3.30pm on Thursday, November 12 is required to self-quarantine immediately for 14 days.

The quarantine period should commence on the last day the person was present at the location. They must also get a COVID-19 test on day 1 (or as soon as possible) and day 12 of quarantine.

The Parafield cluster continued to grow on Friday, with three new cases taking it to 25 confirmed infections.

Another 44 people are suspected of having the virus but are waiting for test results.

All the new and suspected cases are already in quarantine, with the total number of people in isolation rising to more than 4500.

SA Health also added two new locations to its list of alerts late yesterday afternoon – Coles, Churchill Shopping Centre at Kilburn on Saturday November 14 from 10am to 10.20am and Woolworths Findon on Friday November 13 from 8.50pm to 9.00pm.

If you visited those locations during the listed times, you do not need to self-quarantine but you should monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if symptoms appear.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the number of confirmed infections was expected to rise during the next few days but urged people not to be alarmed by that.

She said efforts were continuing to put a “double ring-fence” around the outbreak to limit the risk of more widespread transmission.

SA conducted a record 14,459 tests on Thursday, taking the total during the past three days to almost 36,000.

Changes to shopping hours as Adelaide Central Market re-opens

Exemptions that allowed supermarkets and other essential stores including pharmacies across Adelaide to trade extended hours to promote physical distancing will be revoked, following tomorrow’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Originally in place until December 2, the exemption allowed 24-hour trade on weekdays and longer trading on weekends for essential stores.

The Adelaide Central Market’s fresh food stallholders will be allowed to trade from today after being controversially shut down on Thursday as part of the state’s hard lockdown despite being able to trade throughout previous restriction periods. Full market trading will resume from Tuesday.

Extended trade across the city and suburbs for Black Friday (November 27) will go

ahead as planned, allowing shops to trade an extra three hours until midnight to mark the unofficial start of the holiday season.

Also, extended pre-Christmas trade will begin on Sunday November 29, with shops able to open their doors two hours early at 9am.

Shops will also be able to stay open until midnight on Thursday December 17 and Friday December 18 if they choose. An extra hour of trade until 6pm will also be allowed on Saturday December 19 and Sunday December 20.

Boxing Day shopping hours will be 9am to 5pm across the city and suburbs.

Businesses demand compensation after ‘serious failings’ exposed

Business SA CEO Martin Haese. Picture: Tony Lewis/InDaily

South Australian businesses have launched an immediate call for compensation following yesterday’s bombshell revelation the state was forced into an unnecessary shut-down based on a “lie”.

Business SA CEO Martin Haese said South Australia’s economy had been “threatened” and “serious failings” in the state’s COVID-19 management plan had been exposed, after the state was plunged into a six-day shutdown because of concerns about the spread of the Parafield coronavirus cluster.

It came after authorities revealed the trigger for the lockdown was based on a “lie” by a medi-hotel kitchen worker – who withheld from SA Health contact tracers the fact he worked a second job at the Woodville pizza bar at the centre of the cluster concerns.

Haese said “a single lie cannot bring a state’s economy to its knees” and that business owners had been let down.

“To say this week has been a roller coaster ride for South Australian business owners would be a gross understatement,” he said.

“This is a cluster thud.

“A three-day shutdown of the entire state will cost businesses many millions of dollars.

“Businesses have worn the cost of this lockdown, and Business SA is calling on the Government to bring forward pre-Parafield Gardens cluster restrictions as soon as possible.”

Business SA is calling for:

Haese said Guarantee Service Level Payments existed for extended power outages and could be used as a basis for compensation for businesses who have suffered “measurable financial loss” due to the forced shutdown.

“Business SA’s message to the government is clear – let’s get back to business without delay,” Haese said.

 – Jemma Chapman

NT to remove SA restrictions from today

The Northern Territory will remove all coronavirus hotspot declarations for South Australia from 9am today.

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the change followed emerging information from SA in relation to the cluster of COVID-19 cases in Adelaide.

SA is preparing to lift its statewide lockdown on Sunday after fears of unchecked community transmission eased.

The change means anyone arriving in the Territory from South Australia after 9am on Saturday will not be required to do 14 days in quarantine.

People already in quarantine will be tested for COVID-19 on Friday and have a general health check before being released.

About 70 people brought from Alice Springs to Darwin will be returned to the Alice Springs if they wish.

Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie said the decision to revoke the hotspot declaration was based on information from South Australia and a thorough assessment which showed minimal risk to the Northern Territory.

But he said anyone travelling from SA was urged to get tested before they arrived and stay home if they are sick.

“The decision to go hard and wide early and declare all of South Australia a hotspot was the right one to make to protect the health of Territorians,” Heggie said.

“We have put the right mechanisms in place to protect the health and safety of Territorians and to act swiftly should the need occur.

“Our system is working with no community transmission of COVID-19.”

Fyles thanked those who had been inconvenienced for their co-operation, but said people needed to appreciate things could change rapidly during the global pandemic.

“Domestic travel is not what it was prior to COVID-19,” she said.

“Domestic travel at any point can change quickly and people may be asked to go into quarantine.”

Earlier this week the Territory government declared the whole of SA a coronavirus hotspot, however it reduced that to just Adelaide and its surrounding suburbs on Wednesday.

Woomera prepares for Japanese space capsule landing

South Australia’s outback is set to make history as the landing pad for a Japanese space capsule containing samples from a 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid.

A sample return capsule from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will touch down on December 6 in the Woomera prohibited area, about six hours north of Adelaide.

It is carrying what will be the first ever sub-surface asteroid samples returned to Earth.

The spacecraft first landed on the Ryugu asteroid, more than 300 million kilometres from Earth, in February last year.

It will return to orbit after depositing the capsule in a joint retrieval mission between Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Australian Space Agency and the Department of Defence.

Scientists believe the samples may provide clues about the origins of life.

Asteroids are believed to have formed at the dawn of the solar system and Ryugu may contain organic matter that may have contributed to life on Earth.

The Woomera prohibited area is currently used as a Defence test site.

It has had a connection to space exploration since the 1950s and hosted Australia’s first satellite launch in 1967.

At its peak, Woomera had the world’s second-highest number of rocket launches after NASA’s facilities at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

US hits new daily case record as wave reaches Canada

The United States has logged another record number of new coronavirus cases in a day, sparking calls for people to stay home for Thanksgiving week.

Data released by Johns Hopkins University on Friday showed that 187,833 infections were reported the day before.

The figure exceeds the last daily record by more than 10,000.

The US on Thursday logged 2015 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to the university’s tracker, marking the first time since the beginning of May that the number of fatalities surpassed 2000.

Hospitalisations are also at record highs, straining health care systems.

The US, which has a population of about 330 million, has registered far more deaths and cases than any other country, recording more than 252,500 fatalities and 11.7 million infections since the start of the pandemic.

Multiple states are cracking down with new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a month-long curfew, requiring nearly all of the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home between 10pm and 5am.

Health authorities have urged people to stay home for Thanksgiving next week, a major US holiday in which families usually gather.

Meanwhile, Canada is recording a massive spike in COVID-19 cases which could overwhelm the hospital system, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

A second wave is ripping across the country, forcing several provinces to reimpose restrictions on movement and businesses.

Cases continue to spike and authorities complain some people are being more careless about taking precautions.

“A normal Christmas is quite frankly right out of the question,” Trudeau said after chief public health officer Theresa Tam predicted new daily cases could soar to 60,000 by the end of the year from fewer than 5000 now.

“Cases across the country are spiking massively. We are facing winter, that’s going to drive people inside more and more, and we’re really at risk of seeing caseloads go up and hospitals get overwhelmed,” Trudeau said.

Canada has recorded a total of 315,751 cases and 11,265 deaths so far.

– with AAP and Reuters
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