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No new COVID cases amid confusion over QR codes and masks

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South Australia has recorded no new coronavirus cases today, amid revelations authorities failed to report a past positive case, confusion over masks and delays in implementation of a streamlined QR code process for some phone users.

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Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the unreported case was “not a problem whatsoever”, as it was a woman who returned from overseas, meaning she was not linked to the Parafield cluster and tested positive while in hotel quarantine.

The woman arrived in Adelaide on November 15 and is no longer infectious.

Health authorities discovered the oversight during an audit.

“The case wasn’t missed, it just was that we didn’t publicly report it,” Spurrier said.

“We knew that the person was positive and that they got all of the assessment and the testing, because we have that process wrapping around our medi-hotels.

“It was just that we hadn’t had an opportunity to tell the public about it.”

Spurrier said because authorities were “so busy with the Parafield cluster”, they didn’t add the case to their reporting list.

She said the case was overlooked when authorities changed the time of their daily media updates.

“It’s really of no concern or consequence,” she said.

“There is nothing tidy about a pandemic – it is an inherently unstable biological system.”

Spurrier’s revelation came amid confusion about the QR (quick response) electronic check-in system now mandatory for businesses from today, to record customer details to help with any necessary future contact tracing.

The app for iPhone users wasn’t available this morning, with Spurrier telling reporters “it will be coming in later this afternoon”.

There was also confusion about masks today, which became mandatory in all healthcare, aged care and disability support settings.

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Chris Moy said he’d been sent information that stipulated the masks had to be surgical-grade, even for patients and visitors.

But Spurrier told reporters “we didn’t put a stipulation around that”.

QR code confusion

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens checks in with an Adelaide hotel’s QR system. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

All businesses with a COVID-safe plan, including supermarkets, restaurants and sporting clubs, must adopt the State Government’s QR (quick response) electronic check-in technology today.

The technology records customer details to help with any necessary future contact tracing.

Businesses must print off their QR code – sent to them by SA Health yesterday – and display it by the entrance to their premises so that patrons can scan the code on the mySAGOV app as they enter.

However, the app for iPhone users wasn’t available this morning, with Spurrier telling reporters “it will be coming in later this afternoon”.

“There were some issues because of course Apple doesn’t sit within Australia and I know people were trying to get hold of the executives in America but unfortunately they were asleep and we are just waiting for California to wake up and hopefully that will be in place this afternoon,” she said.

Spurrier said the scanning system was still working well without the iPhone app.

“It is very simple, you just hold your phone over the QR reader with your camera, push the button and it takes you to a site where you put your contact details,” she said.

She acknowledged “it will be much more convenient when we do have the app for iPhones”.

A government spokesperson told InDaily this afternoon that the technology was now working on iPhones.

The spokesperson said if the app has not automatically updated, delete it and reinstall it.

One city clothing shop manager – who didn’t want to be identified – said she had “no idea” if the QR system was now mandatory or how it worked.

She said there had been a lack of information from authorities.

The business introduced its own QR system a month ago in line with the company’s national policy but now wasn’t sure whether SA stores needed to update it with the Government version.

One Adelaide gym was using a paper check-in system this morning, telling patrons the QR system would be up and running tomorrow.

Felici Espresso Bar co-owner Luciano Liguoro said the system was working fine, even without the iPhone app.

“Nobody’s complaining here but it will be even better when the app is available,” he said.

When asked why there had been a delay in getting the iPhone app, Spurrier said her focus had been on getting on top of the Parafield cluster.

“The fact that we’ve had a slight delay in getting the QR readers out is just one of those things that happens – it does work this morning, I’ve used it myself twice and I feel very confident South Australians are really going to embrace this system,” she said.

“It is actually a game-changer for us.”

Marshall said the QR system would be “a fantastic new tool for our contact tracers”.

“That information is kept very securely, it is encrypted and it is only accessed by SA Health when they need that information to advance their case for getting people into quarantine as quickly as possible,” he said.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said more than 26,000 people had already used the app to scan QR codes this morning.

He said those without mobile phones still have the option of manually filling-out their details on paper when they visit a premises.

Businesses must use the Government QR scanning technology, regardless of whether they have already implemented their own system.

“People have – particularly through the media – expressed concerns about privacy,” Stevens said.

“If you use an independent third-party QR code then you have no confidence that that information is not being used in some other way.

“The State Government QR code is an encrypted system and is only used by SA Health for contact tracing purposes.”

Questions over mask guidelines

There was also confusion about masks today, which became mandatory in all healthcare, aged care and disability support settings.

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Chris Moy said he’d been sent information that stipulated the masks had to be surgical-grade, even for patients and visitors.

“They are not allowed normal masks – it has to be a surgical mask,” he told InDaily.

“For a (medical) practice, it’s quite a big impost when you consider each mask costs $1 to $1.50.

“Imagine whole families coming in and having to provide surgical masks for everyone.”

Moy said he’d raised his concerns with the Health Minister and he was “reassured they are trying to provide a solution”.

But Spurrier told reporters “we didn’t put a stipulation around that”.

She said “of course our healthcare staff will have the correct grade” but that visitors and patients could use any mask.

Moy said that wasn’t the information that had been provided to him.

He pointed InDaily to the relevant Emergency Management Direction that states “all care providers, patients, clients, residents, administrative and other staff, employees, visitors, students, contractors and any other person on the premises at which the service is provided must wear a single-use surgical mask” with some exceptions.

Excerpt from the Emergency Management (Public Activities No 14) (COVID-19) Direction 2020

“It’s confusing, I’m not sure what’s going on,” he said.

Restrictions eased

Spurrier declared today was “a day of celebration”, as authorities lifted a raft of restrictions on gatherings and venues.

Up to 150 people are now allowed at funerals, weddings and private functions, while licensed venues are allowed to serve alcohol to standing people outdoors and community sport is now permitted.

Cinemas and theatres will be allowed to operate at up to 50 per cent capacity while gyms and swimming centres can also open.

Home gatherings are still limited to 10 people for now although Police Commissioner Grant Stevens yesterday said he was hopeful that would be increased to 50 people by December 14, in time for Christmas.

Meanwhile, there were scenes of joy at Adelaide Airport this morning after South Australia reopened its border to Victoria.

Families who have been apart for much of this year were reunited, with some meeting new family members for the first time.

Elle Holtham meets her nephew for the first time at Adelaide Airport after Melbourne flights resumed. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

A family is reunited at Adelaide Airport. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

However, South Australian travellers are still being screened as they enter Victoria.

Today’s lifting of restrictions was bittersweet for some hospitality venues, which are still subject to a one-person per four-square-metre density cap indoors.

Business SA last week claimed the restriction meant venues were “in store for a dire December” as they could only operate at 25 per cent capacity.

Stevens said the transition committee discussed lifting the indoor density rule at this morning’s meeting, “but at this time we will keep it until the 14th of December, unless we see something significant happen”.

“We make these decisions knowing the consequences of these decisions – it is not lost on us the harm that’s caused to small businesses, the hospitality industry,” he said.

“But we are mindful of the potential consequences of not controlling COVID-19 and going into an extended lockdown like Victoria had to endure.”

Premier Steven Marshall told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that if health authorities advised that restrictions could be further lifted before December 14, “that’s precisely what we’ll do, but similarly, if things escalate with regards to the Parafield cluster or the situation deteriorates in South Australia, we’ve got to be nimble”.

Spurrier urges kindness following apology

Spurrier yesterday afternoon publicly apologised to an infectious man whose shopping spree sparked a series of high-risk COVID alerts over the weekend.

On Sunday, Spurrier wrongly accused the man in his 30s of breaking coronavirus quarantine rules by not isolating at home between his day one and 12 tests.

But her deputy yesterday revealed the man was never given a formal direction to quarantine as he was only a “casual contact” of a positive case.

Spurrier today said she had spoken to the man on the phone to personally apologise.

“He was extremely gracious and accepting of that apology,” she said.

“He was actually very thankful that we had made that apology and cleared that and we’ll keep moving forward.”

Asked who gave her the wrong information that led to the false accusation, Spurrier said it was “better not to be seeking scapegoats and laying blame”.

“It’s actually the virus that is the common enemy, so if we try and say ‘look, this person gave me the wrong information’ or ‘they should be made the scapegoat’ that doesn’t actually help fight this virus,” she said.

“We all need to practice that kindness, that compassion.”

Meanwhile, a police investigation continues into accusations a 36-year-old Woodville Pizza Bar worker who was part of the Parafield cluster misled health authorities before the statewide lockdown.

Marshall told reporters that the man – a Spanish national on a graduate visa – “deliberately” lied to authorities about his employment at the pizzeria and his “selfish actions” forced the state into shutdown.

Stevens said early last week that an update on the investigation, which is being conducted by 20 detectives, would be given by Sunday, but police are yet to front the media.

There are currently 1100 people directly linked to the Parafield cluster who are in quarantine.

South Australia has recorded 563 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, but only 11 are currently active.

About 6500 people were tested for COVID-19 yesterday.

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