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One new COVID case in SA as lockdown investigation continues

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UPDATED: South Australia has recorded one new coronavirus case – a woman linked to the Parafield cluster who was in quarantine – as police question three people and review medi-hotel security vision as part of an investigation into the case that triggered last week’s short-lived lockdown.

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Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said today’s new case is a woman who contracted the virus after attending a large family gathering in Adelaide’s north.

She has been in hotel quarantine since last Monday and had an unusually long eight-day incubation period, meaning she only tested positive for coronavirus this morning after two earlier negative tests.

Spurrier said the case demonstrated the need for people to observe the full 14 days of quarantine.

“The 14 days is of major importance for everybody who’s been asked to be in quarantine,” she said.

“We are not out of the woods yet – if we have had any community transmission we will start to see it this week.”

The number of cases linked to the Parafield cluster has risen to 27, with one – a man in his 30s – in a stable condition in hospital.

There are also over 4000 people in either hotel or home-based quarantine.

People are urged to continue wearing face masks while they are shopping or using public transport.

It comes after the Government revealed on Friday that a kitchen-hand at the Stamford medi-hotel in the city lied to SA Health contact tracing officers about how he became infected with COVID-19.

The man – a 36-year-old temporary graduate visa holder from Spain – initially told contact tracers that he became infected with the virus after picking up a takeaway pizza from the Woodville Pizza Bar coronavirus hotspot.

Authorities later realised after follow-up interviews that he worked part-time at the pizza bar and contracted the virus from another part-time worker – a security guard at Peppers medi-hotel in Waymouth Street.

Had the man told contact tracers that he worked at the pizza bar, authorities said they would not have sent South Australia into a six-day lockdown – lifted early after the truth was revealed.

Police question three people, review CCTV footage

Police on Friday afternoon announced they had launched a 20-detective taskforce – dubbed “Operation Protect” – to examine whether any criminal behaviour was involved in the Woodville Pizza Bar case.

The officer in charge of the taskforce, Assistant Commissioner Peter Harvey, told reporters this afternoon that up to 36 police officers had reviewed more than 400 hours of CCTV footage from Peppers medi-hotel and seized mobile phones, a laptop and a hard-drive from the Spanish national.

He said the man, who is currently in hotel quarantine, was cooperating with the investigation.

Police are also questioning two other “key people”, but Harvey refused to reveal who they were.

“The two people that we’re still wanting to speak to are certainly related to the pizza shop, but their exact role I’m not going to comment on today,” he said.

“They are certainly working with solicitors, they are seeking legal advice and legal representation before we speak to them further, which is their right and that’s appropriate.

“I expect this will continue for at least several more days, where I’ll then go and make a full assessment on the advice provided to me from the investigative team.”

Harvey said police had not dedicated a fixed number of staff to investigate the matter.

He said the staff and resourcing cost was “necessary”, but could not put a dollar figure on the investigation.

“I’ve never seen anything more focussed in my life and so to have 20 (detectives) is absolutely appropriate,” he said.

“These people investigate murders, kidnappings, serious crime, organised crime at best and that’s why they’re there, and we will draw on them or release them accordingly, so it’s not even an issue.”

Asked whether the police investigation might prevent people from telling the truth to contact tracers, Harvey said it was a “delicate balance” and the investigation would help SA Health conduct its contact tracing.

But he refused to say whether any criminal activity had been uncovered so far in the investigation.

Spurrier said this morning that authorities would review CCTV footage in medi-hotels – particularly the Peppers medi-hotel where the Parafield Cluster originated – to determine how the coronavirus was contracted.

She said the footage would be used to find out whether the strain of the virus was contracted via surface contact or droplets.

“The important thing with that is that it is done in conjunction with our communicable disease control branch because they make a risk assessment of anything that they see on that footage,” she said.

“The actual date, the time and when it happened is one of the most important things for me… is there something that happened that could be prevented from happening again?

“It’s important that I provide that data and information nationally so that all the other states can learn and we can make improvements.”

Premier Steven Marshall said authorities were reviewing footage since November 2, when the person who brought the virus strain to South Australia arrived in Adelaide from the UK.

“It’s a long and laborious process,” he said.

“That work is about half-way through.”

Marshall said SA Health chief executive Chris McGowan had written to the federal chief medical officer asking the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to launch a review into the country’s medi-hotel system, following the emergence of the Parafield cluster.

He said the review should consider a “consistent national approach” to hotel quarantine.

“We have fully resourced the approach here in SA from day one, but there are often conflicting views,” he said.

Spurrier said she had spoken to the AHPPC last week about providing a “very factual list of things and recommendations to go forward”.

“South Australia has proven exactly how transmissible this virus is and even with the very best medi-hotel system there are things that we could do better,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues this week on that.”

It comes after the Government presented modelling yesterday that showed the state had a 99 per cent chance of a “significant” COVID-19 wave if it did not enter a lockdown last week.

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