Professor Nicola Spurrier told reporters this morning that she was “a little bit disappointed” by the state’s COVID testing rate over the weekend, given the number of South Australians who travelled from Victoria in recent weeks.
Latest data from SA Health shows there were 5892 tests conducted on Saturday.
Spurrier said the numbers were “not high enough” to make her feel “absolutely confident about whether we may or may not be having something happen here”.
“It’s quite possible that we do have COVID in our community because of that traffic back and forth across the state,” she said.
“We did put our borders in place, but this is a disease where things have occurred 14 days before and you’ve always got to keep looking in the back rear mirror to see what’s happened in the past.”
It comes as Victoria today recorded 11 new locally-acquired cases of coronavirus, taking the state’s latest outbreak to more than 50 infections.
The new cases include two aged care workers and a resident, forcing a number of facilities into lockdown.
Victoria’s Health Department on Monday said the new cases were recorded from more than 43,874 tests conducted in the 24 hours to midnight.
SA Health has sent text messages to about 50,000 people who have recently travelled from Victoria asking whether they visited exposure sites.
So far, only about 22,000 people have responded to the message.
“It may be that some of those people have gone back to Victoria and therefore they wouldn’t see it as relevant to reply to our survey, but there are still quite a lot of people and we re-sent some of those SMS’ over the weekend,” Spurrier said.
“If that was you, please don’t think it was a spam – it will say ‘official SA Health’.
“It’s important for the whole community that you respond to that survey.”
There are currently 1500 people in home quarantine in South Australia as a result of the Victorian outbreak.
AFL requests travel exemptions for Collingwood players
Spurrier said SA Health was in talks with the AFL over a request to provide travel exemptions to Collingwood Football Club players to come to South Australia this weekend for the round 12 clash with Adelaide.
If the travel exemptions are approved, Collingwood players would not be required to quarantine for 14 days before playing at Adelaide Oval on Saturday afternoon.
Spurrier said health authorities were looking at the AFL’s request “very closely”, but did not say when a decision would be made.
She said last year health authorities had to take a “real stand against letting football players in”.
“It’s an important decision and we need to look at the risks,” she said.
“As more exposure sites have been listed in retrospect, we would need to obviously make sure anybody who is coming into South Australia and not quarantining had not been at any of those exposure sites.”
It comes after SA Health’s exemptions committee in September came under fire for granting 11 relatives of Port Adelaide Football Club players exemptions to come to SA from Melbourne to attend a match at Adelaide Oval.
Spurrier was forced to overturn the decision, which was made by one SA Health worker, after she found the exemptions should not have occurred because they did not fall under the usual reasons of compassionate or medical grounds.
Premier Steven Marshall said this morning that SA Health’s exemptions committee applied a “very high level of scrutiny” to its travel exemptions process.
“It’s served us very well in the past and I expect it will continue to serve us very well into the future,” he said.
SA hopeful Federal Govt will approve international student plan
Marshall said he expected the Federal Government would give South Australia the green light to start returning international students to the state in the “coming weeks”.
The State Government announced over the weekend that Spurrier had approved its plan to let up to 160 international students at a time serve two week’s quarantine at Parafield Airport, in Adelaide’s north.
Upon landing in Adelaide, the overseas students would be brought from Adelaide Airport to Parafield, where they would be required to quarantine in the existing accommodation units previously used by flight school students who studied at Parafield Airport.
The international students would be required to pay for their flights and accommodation.
CBD medi-hotels would continue to be used for returning Australians.
Marshall said South Australia had been in discussions with the Federal Government about the Parafield plan for months.
He said it would not increase the risk of coronavirus transmission in South Australia.
“SA Health has been working to have a very robust plan (and) we presented that to the Federal Government over the weekend,” he said.
“Alan Tudge, who’s the Minister responsible for this area, said there are two things which are critical – one is it needs to be signed off by the chief public health officer in South Australia and number two is it needs to be above the 530 weekly (quarantine) cap that we have in our state.
“We’ve been able to achieve both those things, but ultimately, it still needs to go off to the Federal Government for their approval.”
Spurrier said the Parafield Airport quarantine facility was “quite different” from medi-hotels.
“The way the units are set up is there’s a kitchenette and then there are a number of bedrooms all in one detached unit,” she said.
“You couldn’t expect an international arrival to share a facility with people they don’t know, because there would be a risk of catching COVID and also I think that would be considered unacceptable.
“However, for students, they are used to this sort of accommodation where they would be sharing with another couple of students.
“That increases the risk slightly for students, because they could be exposed to COVID from another student, (but) it does not increase the risk for the South Australian community.”
New COVID vaccination clinic opens in Elizabeth
The State Government today opened its third COVID vaccination clinic at the Playford Civic Centre in Elizabeth.
The centre will provide both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to those eligible under phases 1A, 1B and 2A of the rollout program.
It will have the ability to scale up to deliver up to 10,000 vaccines per week.
Other vaccination clinics are located at Wayville and Noarlunga.
– with AAP
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