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Third infectious NSW truck driver sparks new SA alerts

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The number of COVID-positive truck drivers from NSW who have entered South Australia and sparked alerts and quarantine orders has risen to three in a week, as the state lifts its border restrictions for travellers arriving from southeast Queensland and Katherine.

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Police Commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens told reporters after this morning’s transition committee meeting that the arrival of another COVID-positive truck driver from New South Wales yesterday was a “timely reminder that we’re not through this (pandemic) yet”.

The driver travelled through Oodla Wirra in the state’s mid-north yesterday, before stopping in Port Wakefield and metropolitan Adelaide.

He has since returned to New South Wales.

SA Health late last night added two new exposure sites – the Port Wakefield BP at 22 Snowtown Road, which is owned by On the Run, and Metcash Distribution Centre at 50 Port Wakefield Road, Gepps Cross.

Anyone who was at the service station yesterday between 1.50pm and 3.20pm must immediately quarantine for 14 days and get tested today, on day 5 and day 13 of quarantine.

If we are going to have incursions, then I think these are the sorts that we’re most willing to have

People who were at the distribution centre between 8.30am and 9.30am yesterday should monitor for symptoms and get tested as soon as they develop.

Stevens said health authorities were yet to find any other exposure sites, or determine how many people are now considered close contacts.

He said the truck driver had been “very cooperative” and provided a “wealth of information about his movements, which is just being verified at the moment”.

“It appears that we’ve got onto this very quickly,” he said.

“The truck driver was only in South Australia yesterday and we’re already moving to take action with those exposure sites.

“If we are going to have incursions, then I think these are the sorts that we’re most willing to have because I think we seem to be able to get on top of them quite quickly.”

It comes after two COVID-positive truck drivers, who came from New South Wales, travelled through Port Augusta and Ceduna on August 21, before doing a truck exchange at Nundroo in the state’s west.

SA Health on Sunday listed eight tier one exposure sites, all petrol stations or roadhouses, across Port Augusta and Ceduna, as well as one in Nundroo.

They identified 150 people who came in contact with the drivers, including 99 close contacts who have been ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days.

We can’t ask much more of this sector

Authorities last week imposed a requirement on truck drivers coming in to South Australia to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.

Stevens said since then, “some” drivers had been caught trying to enter the state without a recent negative test result.

But he said overall, the heavy vehicle industry had done an “exceptional job of operating in a COVID-safe way” and truck drivers “by and large have done the right thing”.

“The three truck drivers who we’ve had in South Australia who were COVID-positive just recently, all of the evidence indicates that they’ve done the right thing,” he said.

“They’ve been wearing masks, they’ve been providing advice about where they’ve been.

“We can’t ask much more of this sector, but we are continuing to work with them to make sure we’re doing things as safely as possible and they can be as safe as possible as well.”

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier on Sunday expressed frustration at over a dozen people who were identified as having visited the exposure sites without checking-in using QR codes.

She said as a result, some close contacts of the positive truck drivers may be unknowingly infectious while out in the community.

Stevens said SA Police monitored check-in compliance weekly and there had been “high levels of activity within QR codes, which is promising”.

“But, we do know that there are people who are not checking-in as they enter businesses,” he said.

“We can only encourage people to do the right thing.”

SA lifts restrictions for southeast Queensland, Katherine

It comes as South Australia lifts all border restrictions for travellers coming from southeast Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory.

Effective immediately, people coming from those areas are no longer required to get tested upon arrival.

“Those restrictions are coming off immediately on the basis that they’ve had sufficient periods of infection free days within their community,” Stevens said.

The state’s transition committee this morning also discussed lifting private gathering restrictions, particularly for weddings, but no decisions were made.

Stevens said SA Health would consult with industry stakeholders about potential “positive” changes in the coming days.

“It’s signalling to the industry and also the people who may be planning events over the next few days that there will be changes coming,” he said.

Currently weddings are capped at 150 people, but venues must maintain a one person per two-square-metre capacity limit if people are standing while eating or drinking, or three people per four-square-metres limit if they are seated.

Meanwhile, authorities have reversed a decision that would have required cross border community members to be vaccinated if they wanted to travel between South Australia and Victoria from September 24.

The decision to exclude people in the 70km border bubble from the compulsory vaccination direction was announced by SA Police yesterday afternoon, after they were included in the original direction published on Friday.

The backflip has been welcomed by several regional communities, particularly in the state’s South East.

Stevens said cross border community members were “inadvertently” caught up in a direction change that required essential workers coming into South Australia to have at least one COVID vaccination dose.

“We made the change to relax them from that obligation to produce evidence of a vaccination, but I must qualify there is a potential for that requirement to be placed upon them in the future as we continue to manage our borders for South Australia,” he said.

New South Wales this morning reported 1164 new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 and three deaths, including a woman in her 50s, while Victoria recorded 76 new cases. 

New data released by the Federal Government this morning shows South Australia has the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated over 50s and 70s in the country.

Just 46.19 per cent of South Australians aged over 50 have received two doses, compared to the national average of 50.82 per cent.

Over 57 per cent of South Australians aged over 70 are now fully vaccinated, below the national average of 62.23 per cent.

About half – 52.2 per cent – of the total South Australian population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 33.6 per cent fully vaccinated.

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