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SA authorities tracking 2700 travellers, AFLW season in turmoil as WA locked out

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UPDATED | South Australia is at “greater risk” of a COVID-19 outbreak taking hold because of the state’s low level of restrictions, the Police Commissioner warns, as authorities seek to contact around 2700 travellers who have arrived from Western Australia since January 26.

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Metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West have completed their first night of a five-day lockdown which will run until 6pm on Friday, with people arriving in SA from WA since Australia Day forced to quarantine at home for 14 days.

These include the Crows AFLW team and several senior football department figures who flew back from Perth yesterday after their Round 1 trouncing of West Coast.

All players have been sent home for a fortnight, along with club officials including head of football Adam Kelly, women’s coach and men’s ruck coach Matthew Clarke and veteran player Tom Lynch, an AFLW assistant coach.

Another men’s assistant coach, Nathan van Berlo, is also in quarantine after separately visiting his Perth hometown with his family on the weekend.

The league is frantically reassessing how to proceed with the AFLW season, with several teams impacted by the WA shutdown and matches for the next fortnight in limbo.

Late on Monday, the AFL announced the fixture for Round Two would proceed as normal for all teams except Adelaide, GWS, West Coast and Fremantle, whose schedules would be “determined in due course”.

SA authorities last night established a checkpoint on the WA border after declaring new restrictions on entry at 10.15pm on Sunday.

However, Police Commissioner and Emergency Coordinator Grant Stevens says he is awaiting details from WA authorities about their tracing efforts.

“We don’t have a lot of information at this point in time,” he told media today.

“When we have that level of confidence we’ll be in a position to make an adjustment to our restrictions.”

He said it was unlikely SA would have to see 14 days of no community transmission – as it stipulated with the recent New South Wales outbreak – before re-opening its border, instead flagging a narrower area affected by travel bans.

The WA lockdown was prompted after a security guard at the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Perth’s CBD – who also worked for a rideshare company – contracted what is believed to be the highly contagious UK variant of the virus, then attended more than a dozen venues over several days while infectious.

Stevens said he was concerned by “the fact we’re potentially talking about the UK strain of the virus, which is more virulent, more transmissible and has the potential to affect more people in the community”.

“The problem for us in SA – and it’s a good problem to have – is we have as much activity in the state as possible in the COVID environment,” he said.

“Our physical distancing rules are more relaxed than other places, the caps for public activities are higher and the ability for businesses to trade is greater [so] if we do have COVID-19 in the community the risk of it spreading more quickly and going through our community is much greater.

“The UK virus, being more transmissible, presents a greater risk.”

Stevens said the 10.15pm declaration was the “earliest opportunity” to impose a border ban, saying: “If we had the mechanism to do it more quickly it would have been earlier.”

“We understand the imposition this places on people, but we are dealing with a pandemic,” he said.

Asked whether he believed WA had taken a proportional response to its positive case, Stevens said: “Time will tell.”

“We’ll see what info we get out of AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee]… I think it’s an indicator there’s not too many jurisdictions in Australia that haven’t been in a scenario where they’re implementing lockdown to contain coronavirus,” he said.

“We need to see what information they’ve acted on and how quickly they’ve acted [but] we have to be in a position to adapt to our situation and be responsive to changing circumstances.”

Doctors in Perth have criticised Western Australia’s “amateur” hotel quarantine system, with local Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller labelling the breach predictable, and saying the McGowan government had ignored concerns about the hotel regime.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that we are still running what we would describe as an amateurish quarantine system,” he said.

“These are not quarantine facilities, these are hotels.”

Dr Miller has called on WA to invest in dedicated quarantine facilities not used for any other reasons, proper airborne protection including fresh air ventilated through hotels and supply of N95 face masks for all security guards.

He also wants guards to be better paid and banned from taking a second job.

However, Stevens maintains the view he advocated during SA’s Parafield cluster outbreak that such a stipulation was unworkable.

“I maintain my position – I’m not convinced,” he said today.

“I remain to be convinced that we’re mitigating risk by stopping individuals undertaking one aspect of their personal life, when they could be sitting at a dinner table with a family member who is an Uber driver, or works in a gymnasium or in a hospital… I just don’t see that as a proper approach to risk mitigation [so] my position hasn’t changed.”

SA recorded no new coronavirus cases today, leaving the state’s total at 596, with no active cases.

-additional reporting by AAP

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