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Border controls ease as SA expands testing regime

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Border restrictions on people entering South Australia from Western Australia outside of the Greater Perth lockdown zone have been eased, while testing requirements for people entering from Greater Sydney are set to cease from the end of next week.

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SA authorities imposed a hard border on WA late on Sunday after Greater Perth, including the Peel and south-west regions, was plunged into a five day lockdown, prompted by a positive COVID-19 test for a medi-hotel worker.

However, after a meeting of the state’s Transition Committee this morning, Police Commissioner and emergency coordinator Grant Stevens declared the highest level of border control would only apply to people who had visited WA’s lockdown zone since January 26.

“As a result of the advice we’ve received from the AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee], we’ve made the decision to restrict the lockout to WA to just that area affected,” he said.

People arriving from outside the lockdown zone must still undertake COVID testing on day one, five and 12 after their arrival, and isolate until cleared by the initial test.

They will be able to transit through Perth airport en route to SA.

It comes as SA authorities flag a complete easing of entry requirements on arrivals from NSW, after border controls for the Greater Sydney area were eased on the weekend.

Stevens said that subject to any new cases in Sydney, arrivals from that area would no longer have to submit to COVID testing on arrival to SA as of Saturday February 13 – which would be 28 days since the last case of community transmission was recorded.

The Committee will meet again on Friday, but Stevens said it was unlikely to ease any further restrictions for SA residents in the short term.

“While we’re still dealing with the WA situation, I’d suggest we’re not going to be making any changes to activities within SA,” he told reporters.

SA authorities have been trying to track down around 2700 people who have arrived from WA since Australia Day, but Stevens said that, effective immediately, “anybody who has travelled from WA and not been in the lockdown zone since January 26 will be free to leave their 14 day quarantine period in SA”.

He said the hard border was imposed given an “absence of information” from WA authorities, which “compelled us to take a course of action we thought necessary to protect the SA community”.

Premier Steven Marshall said the state had taken a “precautionary approach”, on advice from his WA counterpart.

“The advice we received from Mark McGowan, the Premier of WA, was that we should close that border and that’s precisely what we have done,” he said.

“As more data comes in, we’ll be in a better position to see how long those restrictions need to stay in place [but] we already know from genomic test results that this is the UK strain – we’ve seen the damage this has caused right around the world.

“We don’t want it here in SA.”

Marshall said nationally-mandated daily saliva testing of “everybody operarting within SA’s medi-hotels” would be completely rolled out by Monday – with testing then to be expanded to all workers on the COVID “pathway” from Adelaide airport to the quarantine facilities.

The Premier said he expected the latter part of the rollout – the “next order of importance” – to be in place by February 22.

SA reported one new COVID case today – a man in his 20s recently returned from overseas who has been in a medi-hotel since arrival.

However, SA Health said serology testing was underway to determine whether the positive test represented an old infection.

It comes as the AFLW hopes to ensure two postponed games – including the Adelaide Crows’ round two fixture – can still be played despite WA’s COVID-19 lockdown.

The Adelaide team and staff remain in their 14-day home quarantine, while West Coast and Fremantle are under Perth’s strict lockdown and Greater Western Sydney players are in self-isolation in Sydney until at least Friday night.

The Dockers were meant to be taking on the Crows in Adelaide this weekend, while the Eagles and GWS were also due to meet.

AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone said the round two situation would become clearer in coming days.

“There’s still hope that we will play those games in the round two framework; we’re working with authorities on what we can and can’t do,” she told media.

“I wish we had have been able to get a couple more rounds away before we were dealing with these complexities.

“Those two matches that are ‘TBC’, we’re keeping in touch with the clubs and the government authorities before making further decisions.

“Let’s hope the WA outbreak ends up being a little bit like the Queensland outbreak where they were able to get it under control very quickly…

“The pause button is on that at the moment until we get those two games sorted.”

-additional reporting by AAP

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