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SA prepares to shut border to Greater Melbourne at midnight

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South Australian authorities intend to shut the state’s border to Greater Melbourne at midnight tonight, following the emergence of a new Victorian cluster.

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State emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said this afternoon that pending further information from Victorian health authorities, South Australia would shut its border at midnight to anyone travelling from the Greater Melbourne region, with exceptions for returning South Australian residents, those permanently relocating to SA or essential workers.

Under the planned directions, South Australian residents who return from Greater Melbourne after midnight tonight will need to quarantine at home for 14 days.

Those who return before midnight tonight will need to get tested for coronavirus on days one, five and 12 in line with the current requirements.

The restriction would not apply to travellers from regional Victoria, nor would the new arrangements affect border communities.

Stevens said he was unable to say when the border restriction would be lifted, with authorities intending to monitor the situation closely to open the border as soon as safely possible.

It comes after Victoria today reported the cluster linked to the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport had grown to eight cases.

That includes two cases reported today – a hotel worker and a previous resident who left the hotel on February 7. 

The infections are believed to be linked to the highly-infectious UK variant of the disease.

“It’s a very dynamic and moving situation,” Stevens said.

“Our steps in South Australia are taken with an abundance of caution to make sure that we are minimising the risk, but at the same time not taking steps aren’t deemed to be necessary.”

Stevens said the direction might change between now and midnight, but authorities wanted to warn people of their intentions “as soon as possible so they can make those arrangements and cross that border if it’s necessary for them to do so before we make these changes”.

He said authorities were aware many South Australians were currently in Melbourne to attend the Australian Open, but they wanted to keep SA COVID-free ahead of the upcoming festival season.

“We know that this is a delicate position for people who may be in Victoria wishing to travel to South Australia or South Australians who may be looking to return,” he said.

“If you feel so strongly that you need to get back without quarantining then my advice would be that you consider what your options are immediately.”

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said she was unable to say when authorities would confirm the midnight border closure, with SA Health still trying to gather information about the new cases from their Victorian counterparts.

“I do apologise because it is always so inconvenient to have any borders in place in Australia,” she said.

“However, from our perspective we have to keep in mind the health and safety and wellbeing of South Australians and we also have the Fringe and Festival coming up and we want to most positively have that go ahead.”

Spurrier said SA Health was yet to receive the genomic information about the Holiday Inn cases and the Victorian testing rates.

She said she was being “extra cautious” giving advice about the latest cluster, given the UK variant of COVID-19 is 70 per cent more transmissible.

“I am very concerned,” she said.

“We have had a number of cases associated with the hotel (and) we know what happened when we had the Parafield cluster here in South Australia, but on the other hand… we are in a better position.”

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