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Spurrier apologises to man wrongly accused of breaching quarantine

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UPDATED | Chief public health officer professor Nicola Spurrier has this evening personally apologised to a South Australian man who was wrongly accused of breaching quarantine when he visited numerous shops while infected with COVID-19.

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Her apology comes after health authorities this afternoon revealed the man was never directed to go into quarantine, despite Spurrier saying yesterday that he “unfortunately… did not spend the whole time in quarantine” after being identified as a contact of a confirmed case.

SA Health yesterday said the man, aged in his 30s, was self-quarantining after attending the Intensive English Language Institute at Flinders University, but went out on Sunday November 22 after receiving an initial negative test.

But today deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick told reporters the man had not breached quarantine as widely reported, after being identified as a “casual contact” of a confirmed case at the Intensive English Language Institute.

“For this particular cluster associated with the school we did not require them as casual contacts to go into a set mandated quarantine period under the Emergency Management Act,” she said.

“I think that’s really important to understand here. There was not a specific direction served to this individual to undertake quarantine.

“This individual was identified as a casual contact and so was asked to undertake a test and go into isolation. He was never given a formal direction to go into quarantine for 14 days. This individual did get tested on day one and isolated until his test result came back and it came back negative.

“He’s gone and had a test on day 12 following the advice from SA Health. He has isolated until that result has come back and it has come back positive.”

Spurrier this evening issued a statement apologising for the “miscommunication”.

“To clarify and after reviewing Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) processes, as a casual contact this individual was never directed to quarantine by SA Health or SAPOL and therefore has done nothing wrong,” she said.

“He received communication from the Intensive English Language Institute as requested by CDCB, in which he was advised to get tested and isolate, which he did straight away.

“There was no further communication from SA Health with this individual following his negative test result.

“He has not breached quarantine and he has been fully cooperative with our contact tracing efforts which are aimed at stopping the spread of the virus any further.

“I would personally like to apologise for this miscommunication and thank him for continuing to work with us.”

It came as authorities reported no new cases of COVID-19 in SA today.

But public health alerts were issued yesterday after it was revealed the man visited Big W Brickworks, Torrensville (12.15pm to 12.50pm), Foodland Norwood (1.20pm to 2pm) and Kmart Kurralta Park (2.45pm to 3.10pm) on November 22 while infectious.

SA Health says people who visited those “high risk” locations at the specified times must get tested immediately – even if they don’t have symptoms.

The man visited a number of other locations for a shorter period. Those who visited the locations at the same time are being asked to get tested if they have symptoms:

On The Run, Hilton (12.05 pm – 12.15 pm), Anaconda, Mile End (12.55 pm – 1.05 pm), Guzman y Gomez, Glandore (2.45 pm – 2.50 pm) and Glenelg Boost Juice Shop (3.20 pm – 3.30pm).

SA Health has also issued a quarantine alert for the Intensive English Language Institute at Flinders University between November 13 and 28.

Anybody who visited the campus and those in their immediate household must self-quarantine for 14 days. Those who attended the campus must also get tested on day one and 12 of their quarantine.

Authorities set up additional pop-up testing clinics outside Big W Brickworks and Kmart Kurralta Park.

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Chris Moy earlier told InDaily he understood the man believed he was doing as he should.

“My understanding is the individual did the right thing, quarantined (as a casual contact of an infected person) and then went and had a test which came back negative and then the day the lockdown ended, misunderstood that that meant it was ok – a negative test and lockdown over – he could go out,” he said.

“And then the next day, he developed symptoms and did the right thing which was actually quarantine and then later got a test which was positive.”

Moy said that meant he would have been infectious the day he went out to various shops.

“The message is if you have been told to quarantine you quarantine for the whole period irrespective of if you get a negative test in the interim because that does not mean you can’t become positive later in your quarantine period,” he said.

“I think there’s a general misunderstanding out there.

“The other lesson to be learnt is that for all those people that haven’t been wearing masks out there, if you’d worn a mask in that situation you would have reduced your odds of getting infected and that’s why we need everybody to start wearing a mask, do the physical distancing and stick with the program.”

Kirkpatrick said the man was “given information via a text message” advising him to get tested and go into isolation.

“Further advice was then not given to this individual after he received his negative test result and my understanding is that he has then assumed he is then free to move about the community,” she said.

Asked if that meant he should have received further information after his initial negative test asking him to isolate for longer, Kirkpatrick said: “I’m sure we’ll be looking at this in more close detail particularly upon reflection, certainly when we debrief and we undertake a full analysis of what has occurred as part of this Parafield cluster.”

She said SA Health had “widened the net to include those casual contacts under our Parafield cluster direction so that will ensure now that there’s no need to differentiate between casual and close contacts”.

“Everyone is included under that direction and required to get testing on day one and 12,” she said.

“So there shouldn’t really be any confusion now going forward with this particular site.”

Asked about the public anger directed at the man, after the initial impression from authorities that he had breached quarantine, Kirkpatrick said “I think we often go out looking for where we can blame”.

“You can understand why the community may be feeling frustrated or angry towards this individual,” she said.

“But what I really want to emphasise here is this person has done the right thing, got tested on day one and 12 and were part of a casual contact group with a lower risk profile.

“We are not about blaming individuals here. We’re about making sure that people go and get tested.”

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the man had done nothing wrong.

Moy said it wasn’t helpful to look for people to blame.

“People need to stop focusing on the person and blame and actually focus on what they can do,” he said.

“Worrying about who to blame is not going to help us at this moment in time. We really need people to focus.

“Individuals doing their bit could be the difference between us having a Christmas that’s actually going to be pretty normal and us having a Christmas where we’re going to be in lockdown.”

The easing of restrictions will go ahead tomorrow.

Changes include increasing the caps on funerals and private functions to 150 people, permitting licensed venues to serve alcohol to standing people outdoors and allowing community sport. Home gatherings will still be limited to 10 people.

“At this point we’re aiming for the 1st of December to take that next step before we get back to where we want to be by mid-December,” Stevens told ABC Radio this morning.

“This time, because of that person having come forward, we are right on top of this hopefully, and the advice has gone out to the community and if people follow that advice there’s a good chance that we might stop any further spread if it’s out there.”

The new restrictions will be in place for two weeks.

Stevens told reporters this afternoon that authorities would consider increasing the number of people allowed to gather at people’s homes to 50 in time for Christmas.

Currently, only 10 people are allowed to gather at a private residences.

“I think it’s very high on the agenda that we’ll lift the number of people who can be at homes,” Stevens said.

“It goes back to 50 at a home – we’re hopeful on December 14.

“If you’re catering that’s big enough.”

Meanwhile, Flinders University expects it will be able to reopen its Sturt Campus on Wednesday after a deep clean.

Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Clare Pollock told ABC Radio the majority of students had not visited the campus, as most classes are not running during exam time.

She said “probably around 200 or so students might have been in that area”.

It comes after authorities last fortnight sent the state into a brief lockdown after a man who tested positive to the virus allegedly failed to disclose his employment at the Woodville Pizza Bar coronavirus hotspot.

The Queensland government will wait another week before making a decision on reopening its border to greater Adelaide “before Christmas” as thousands of visitors from southern states prepare to flock to the Sunshine State.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged people in the SA capital to be patient after a briefing with the chief health officer Jeannette Young.

She said Young and Queensland Health needed more time to assess the coronavirus cluster in Adelaide.

“Of course we do have that aspiration that everyone can travel freely before Christmas, so I’m just asking people to please be patient for another week so they can do some further detailed analysis about that,” Palaszczuk told reporters.

Queensland closed the border to 20 local government areas in greater Adelaide on November 16 after the cluster emerged.

Young was concerned that large numbers of people in Adelaide were still being asked to self-quarantine and that pop-up testing sites were still being rolled out.

“It looks good there now at 33 cases related to that cluster (but) they still are continuing to have cases and continuing to have areas of concern,” she said.

-with AAP

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