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New SA restrictions discussed amid Victorian outbreak

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The state’s transition committee is considering “trigger points” which could see it reimpose restrictions on activity and movement in South Australia amid “significant” concerns about the Victorian outbreak.

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State Emergency Coordinator and Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told reporters after this morning’s transition committee meeting that South Australia “can’t ignore the fact that there are very concerning situations in Victoria, particularly in the Greater Melbourne area, and the number of exposure sites is significant”.

He said health authorities were “very concerned about the Victorian situation” and advice from the Australia Health Protection Principal Committee “did cause for us to have a conversation about whether or not we make changes here in South Australia in terms of slowing things down”.

It comes after chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier yesterday issued a plea to South Australians to get tested if they have COVID symptoms, warning it was “quite possible that we do have COVID in our community”.

Spurrier said South Australia’s recent testing rate was “a little bit disappointing”, with latest SA Health data showing 5064 tests were conducted on Sunday.

Stevens said the transition committee discussed what would be the “trigger points” to reimpose restrictions on the community.

He said at this point, there are no plans to change South Australia’s restrictions, but authorities were watching the situation in Victoria closely.

“If the concerns about COVID-19 getting into South Australia are so significant that we believe steps have to be taken then we are talking about restricting movement and activity within the state,” he said.

“I think it’s fair to share that sort of consideration with the community because people need to appreciate just how seriously we take this and what’s happening in Victoria.”

Victoria recorded three new locally-acquired coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the total number of active cases in the outbreak to 54.

The Victorian Health Department this morning confirmed a total of nine locally-acquired cases, although six of those were already reported by Acting Premier James Merlino yesterday.

There are now more than 300 exposure sites linked to the outbreak and 4000 close contacts self-isolating, of which about 80 per cent have returned negative tests.

Stevens said South Australian authorities were yet to decide exactly which restrictions could be reimposed, or what the “trigger points” would be to spark a change in directions.

He said authorities would base their decisions on the number of exposure sites in Victoria, the “continuing number of positive cases – particularly if those cases have not been linked to the existing strain”, and the number of close contacts.

“I think it’s fair to say that none of these decisions we make in relation to imposing restrictions are taken lightly,” he said.

“We are acutely aware of the impact they have on hospitality, other businesses, families, social situations.

“We don’t want to do this (and) at this point in time we don’t have to do it, but I think it would be foolish of everybody if they weren’t giving some thought to the fact that we are neighbouring a state which is dealing with a very significant issue at the moment with COVID-19.

“We have to be thinking about what the possibilities are for us as a community and be prepared to move should we have to.”

SA Health last week sent about 50,000 SMS messages to people in South Australia who recently travelled to Victoria asking if they visited exposure sites, but they are still waiting on responses from just under 30,000 people.

“It is a concern,” Stevens said.

“We’ve had since the 22nd of May a substantial number of people travel from Victoria to South Australia who may still be here, who may be moving through our community, and there is always the potential that they may be carrying COVID-19.”

Of greatest concern to Victorian authorities are three cases linked to an aged care facility in Melbourne’s northwest.

The cases have prompted the Federal Government to scramble to complete vaccinations in aged care facilities.

Stevens said SA Health was looking at vaccination rates in South Australian aged care facilities and he expected they would provide advice to him later today or tomorrow.

Meanwhile, SA Health is still considering whether to grant exemptions to Collingwood Football Club players to travel to Adelaide for Saturday’s game against the Crows without spending 14 days in quarantine.

Stevens said he wouldn’t be shocked if SA Health did approve the exemptions request.

“My understanding is they’re taking a very thorough and considered approach as to how it could be done safely, but there are no decisions at this point in time,” he said.

“If that does occur, then the allowances will be consistent with what exemptions are given to other people who travel into South Australia for other reasons and there will be a tightly managed framework around that.”

– with AAP

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