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SA searches for new exposure site as Vic restrictions under review

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In significant COVID developments this afternoon: SA Health searches for another NSW removalist exposure site, reveals another infection possibly caught inside an Adelaide medi-hotel, and considers tightening arrival restrictions due to a rise in Melbourne cases.

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Deputy chief public health officer Dr Kirkpatrick said this afternoon that authorities were checking where three removalists who travelled from Western Sydney to McLaren Vale on Friday stopped as they travelled into South Australia, causing a third potential exposure site.

Two of the removalists tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, after driving to Adelaide on Friday, July 9 while relocating a Sydney family to McLaren Vale.

The Shell service station in Tailem Bend and neighbouring Coolabah Tree Café have already been listed as exposure sites where the removalists stopped, prompting 90 people to go into 14-day quarantine. 

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters this morning that health authorities were investigating whether the removalists made a third stop in Tailem Bend.

But Kirkpatrick said this afternoon that the potential third exposure site “does not appear to be in Tailem Bend”.

“It does appear to be undertaken whilst the removalists were driving from Victoria into South Australia in the early hours of the Friday the 9th of July,” she said.

“This particular third exposure site is being investigated by SA Police.

“We are aware that this stop did occur, it’s now just trying to step through exactly which location this was and whether these individuals had any potential contact with the community.”

Kirkpatrick said authorities were using CCTV footage to “thoroughly investigate this as part of our risk assessment process”.

She said it was “likely” that the exposure site was a petrol station where the removalists stopped to rest and refuel, but she said she could not say which towns police were investigating.

“The removalists themselves have been very compliant with giving us information and there’s certainly no suggestion at all that they haven’t been compliant with us here at SA Health,” she said.

“But, it has been difficult for them to be able to identify that exact location, which is why we have sought the assistance of SA Police to help us pinpoint where that is.”

Kirkpatrick denied that SA Health was withholding information from the public, telling reporters that authorities “do not have a confirmed location yet”.

She said the potential third exposure site was not in metropolitan Adelaide or in the McLaren Vale region.

She said so far, none of the 90 people who have been identified as having visited the Tailem Bend service station or Coolabah Tree Café between the prescribed 5.20pm to 7pm at-risk period have tested positive for COVID-19.

All those people are currently in 14-day home quarantine.

The two employees at the Shell service station have both returned negative tests and they are currently in quarantine with their families.

Kirkpatrick said the employees may have worked on the weekend, before being identified as close contacts.

“If you are in the Tailem Bend community or you have visited these particular locations at different times, please get tested if you have even the mildest of symptoms,” she said.

“We have increased our testing capacity at the Tailem Bend area to make sure that we can test people who are symptomatic and they can get that very important COVID-19 test to make sure they are safe.”

The removalists were not tested when they crossed the border into South Australia, but under new directions to be implemented at one minute past midnight tonight, commercial and freight drivers will be required to get tested within 24 hours of arrival into the state.

Potential medi-hotel transmission at Stamford

Kirkpatrick said SA Health was analysing a positive case detected today in a man aged in his 40s, who was quarantining at the Stamford medi-hotel after returning from overseas.

She said the man was quarantining in a room on level 19 of the North Terrace hotel, opposite another man, who was reported on July 4 as a historical positive case.

SA Health has undertaken repeat swabs of the man previously deemed a historical case and now believe that he may have been an active infection.

“The gentleman that we are reporting today – this male in his 40s – was located in a room opposite this particular individual and this was a day 13 swab,” Kirkpatrick said.

“We have requested genomics around this particular case to see if they are linked.

“There is a potential here for intra-medi-hotel transmission and we’re going to step through that process to make sure that if there is any risk at all, or if there has been any transmission, we’ll undertake a full review of that particular incident.”

Kirkpatrick said there were five other people who were also quarantining on level 19 of the Stamford Hotel when the potential transmission occurred.

She said they have been ordered to undertake an additional 14 days of hotel quarantine “out of an abundance of caution in case this does end up being confirmed as a intra-medi-hotel transmission”.

If authorities determine that hotel transmission has not occurred, those people will no longer be required to repeat their quarantine period.

They have all returned negative test results.

Kirkpatrick said SA Health was aware that a “number of individuals” had quarantined at the Stamford during the potential exposure period, but had since left.

She said authorities were working through the list of people and contacting them.

“I don’t have the specific numbers of how many individuals have left,” she said.

“We are aware that there were two departures that had occurred during the time that those individuals had been there.”

Both Kirkpatrick and Health Minister Stephen Wade defended the state’s medi-hotel program.

“It’s important to keep this in perspective – we have provided hospitality to tens of thousands of people in the South Australian medi-hotel system,” Wade said.

“It has continued to evolve, continued to raise its standards.

“There is always the risk of transmission within the medi-hotel system.”

A woman aged in her 40s who became infected with COVID-19 overseas and who has been in a medi-hotel since her arrival also tested positive in Adelaide today.

Tougher restrictions likely for Melbourne arrivals

Kirkpatrick also SA Health was meeting with police this afternoon to discuss potentially introducing testing or quarantine requirements for people travelling into South Australia from the Greater Melbourne region.

It comes after Victoria recorded seven new COVID-19 cases today, four of which are linked to the Ariele Apartments complex in northern Melbourne where the NSW removalists worked before entering SA.

The apartment block, which has more than 200 residents, has been in lockdown since Monday evening after the COVID-positive removalists did an equipment pick up on Thursday, July 8.

Among the new cases is a man in his 60s who subsequently infected his parents, who are aged in their 80s and live in Craigieburn.

The man attended an AFL match between Carlton and Geelong on Saturday and was seated in level two of the MCC section of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and also visited a shopping centre.

The removalists did a drop off at a Craigieburn home on the same day and visited several petrol stations and fast-food restaurants in Victoria which have been listed as tier-one exposure sites.

“We will be meeting later this afternoon with SAPOL, once we have some further information through around whether there will be restrictions for people travelling in from the Greater Melbourne area,” Kirkpatrick said.

“However, if you have been at one of those sites that has been put up by the Victorian health authorities – and they have now uploaded those sites onto their website – we do ask you to immediately isolate and go and get tested.

“We certainly do not want the delta strain circulating within the South Australian community and it is very important that we do act quickly and decisively if we do require additional restrictions in place here.”

More to come

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