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SA slams border shut to Greater Melbourne


South Australia will close its border to Greater Melbourne from 6pm tonight with only two hours notice, and will make a series of changes to its medi-hotels following the release of a report into a quarantine leak from Adelaide’s Playford medi-hotel which sparked the growing Victorian outbreak.

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Premier Steven Marshall told reporters this afternoon that only essential travellers and South Australians will be allowed to travel from the Greater Melbourne area into South Australia from 6pm.

He said those who are eligible to travel will need to undertake 14 days of quarantine.

Essential travellers will be allowed to leave quarantine only for the time that they are undertaking the activity for which they receive an exemption.

Anyone who has been in the Greater Melbourne area since Thursday May 20 will need to get tested on days one, five and 13.

After the first test is undertaken they need isolate until they receive a negative result.

People travelling from Bendigo will be allowed to enter South Australia, but they will need to get tested on days one, five and 13 and isolate pending a negative result.

It comes as the outbreak in Victoria today grew to 15 COVID-19 cases, prompting Victorian health authorities to reimpose a series of restrictions.

“Our thoughts are with everybody in Victoria at the moment, particularly those in Melbourne,” Marshall said.

“Any outbreak in Australia is something that we need to take extraordinarily seriously at the moment.”

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said it was “really disappointing when we have to make significant changes across our border”.

She said she had received “very concerning” information from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) about the “large number of exposure sites” outside the Whittlesea local government area, where the outbreak started.  

SA Health has so far sent about 30,000 SMS messages to people in South Australia who visited Victoria since May 6.

Spurrier said the messages were “very clearly a SA Health message” and contained a link to a survey which lists all of the exposure sites.

“It means that our staff in CDCB (Communicable Disease Control Branch) have your contact details and will then contact you and have a conversation with you about what it may or may not mean,” she said.

“It’s really important for the safety for the whole of South Australia that if you do get one of those text messages that you do fill it out.

“If you have been to Victoria in this time of concern and you don’t get a SMS message, you really need to be alert for symptoms.”

Port Adelaide cheer squad members, fans and all players and staff who attended Sunday’s MCG match against Collingwood have been told to test and isolate after confirmation that a positive COVID-19 case attended the game.

Spurrier said three South Australians have been classed as close contacts because they were seated in the two rows next to the infectious person.

One is still in Victoria, but the other two have returned to South Australia.

“My team has been in contact with them and we are urgently arranging retesting of those people because obviously if any of those two people test positive then we will be having the same sort of contact tracing needed within our own state,” Spurrier said.

Another 464 South Australians were seated in the “zone of concern” and have been told to quarantine for 14 days and get tested.

Spurrier said it would be a “good idea” for anyone in South Australia who was at the match, regardless of where they were seated, to get tested as a precaution.

She said it was “too early to say at the moment” when South Australia’s border would reopen to Greater Melbourne.

Police Commissioner and State Emergency Coordinator Grant Stevens said people flying into Adelaide from Melbourne after 6pm would be “case managed”.

“Returning residents will be specifically interviewed in relation to where they’ve been and in all likelihood, be given an exemption to operate within the level three restrictions, which means they’ll be able to move about in the community after having isolated prior to a negative test result on day one,” he said.

SA Police will re-establish border check-points and patrol major arterial roads from this evening.

Spurrier urged people to drive safely if they are travelling into South Australia.

“The last thing we want is somebody to have a serious accident, so we just need to do this calmly,” she said.

It comes after a 47-year-old South Australian truck driver died in a fiery crash in February near the SA-Victorian border, where traffic banked up amid snap travel restrictions for residents of Greater Melbourne.

The accident involved three trucks as a queue of vehicles stretched for several kilometres as trucks and cars waited to enter South Australia.

Report released into Adelaide medi-hotel leak

SA Health this afternoon released a report into how transmission occurred within the Playford medi-hotel on North Terrace earlier this month.

The Victorian outbreak has been traced back to the leak from the medi-hotel.

The inquiry, conducted by SA Health’s CDCB branch, found the most likely cause of the leakage was through the “close timing of doors opening and closing between adjacent rooms”.

It found the virus was probably spread from one man to another when they both opened doors within a short time frame of each other to collect food.

It also found there was no high-risk single event or high-risk breach in infection prevention and control practices identified during this investigation”.

“Therefore, while there is no single conclusive cause of transmission, it is highly likely the close timing of doors opening and closing between adjacent rooms was responsible given the clear role of aerosol transmission of this virus,” the report states.

“A review of the timing and placement of food/goods/waste/linen outside of guest’s rooms is likely to reduce the risk of further episodes of similar transmission events.

“In addition, careful management and placement of guests at higher risk of developing COVID-19 (i.e. close contacts) will also likely assist.”

The investigation was ordered to identify how a man in Victoria became infected with COVID after completing quarantine in an Adelaide medi-hotel and returning three prior negative tests.

He became unwell on May 8 and tested positive in Victoria 22 days after arriving from overseas and completing 14 days of quarantine in an Adelaide medi-hotel.

His strain was linked to that of another traveller in the Adelaide medi-hotel, prompting the review.

The investigation found “the adjacent rooms were at the end of a corridor on one floor of the Medi-hotel”.

“There were two occasions on 3 May 2021, when entry doors opened within 30 minutes of each other” the report states.

“For example, on one occasion, Case B opened his room door to collect his meal, then 18 seconds later Case A opened his door to collect his meal.

“This was during the time Case B was infectious but prior to staff knowing his positive COVID-19 status (he was subsequently moved to the dedicated COVID-19 Medi-hotel).

“A similar situation was observed again, on the same day with a time lapse of less than 12 minutes.

“Due to the camera angle, it was unclear from the review of the CCTV footage if both Case A and Case B wore a disposable surgical mask during these episodes of door opening.”

The report says that following all investigations “no high-risk infection prevention and control breaches were identified”.

“No records of high-risk breaches or any areas of concern were identified in the SAPOL log which is maintained by Medi- hotel CCTV operators, in relation to the investigation.”

The report also noted:

  1. There were no identified incidences of face-to-face contact or passing of items between rooms.
  2. All staff were fully compliant with required testing regimes including post-work testing regime.
  3. No other Medi-hotel guests or intermediary cases were identified in this outbreak investigation.
  4. HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) review did not reveal any contribution of ventilation to the possible transmission event in this case.

The report makes several recommendations including reviewing heating and air conditioning systems and increasing support and education for guests to follow “optimal infection prevention” such as “following established protocol” for opening doors and wearing a disposable mask while doing so.

It also recommends establishing designated zones outside guest rooms for dirty and clean items including dedicated food and rubbish/laundry zones to facilitate food delivery.

Spurrier said SA Health would also establish a “dedicated place” within its medi-hotels for people who are deemed “higher risk”.

“That might be because they shared a room with somebody who has become a case, or they have come on a flight perhaps from India at this point in time,” she said.

She said authorities would also start providing a pathology form and a discharge letter for people leaving medi-hotels asking them to have a test on day 17, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

She said they would also get a SMS message on day 21.

Marshall said the report “heightens… our focus on making sure there’s continuous improvement program”.

“We will share our findings with other states and territories as well who are operating hotel quarantine arrangements because we’ve got to be working together,” he said.

Extended hours at testing sites

SA Health has extended the opening times for Victoria Park, Adelaide Airport, Port Adelaide and Hampstead testing sites following “longer than usual wait times”, some reportedly up to three hours.

South Australia recorded two new positive cases today – a man in his 50s and a man in his 20s – both of whom acquired the infection overseas and have been in a medi-hotel since arriving.

Health authorities think the man in his 20s is an old infection, but because it was not diagnosed overseas it will added to South Australia’s tally.

There are currently three active cases in the state.

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