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‘Continuing risk’: No change to SA-wide restrictions after Mt Gambier COVID scare

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UPDATED | The transition committee has ruled against making any changes to South Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions, after a range of tough new measures were introduced in the state’s South East on Monday.

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Speaking after this morning’s transition committee meeting, police commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said authorities reviewed the state’s border and public activities restrictions but decided against making any further changes.

“We haven’t had any announcements today that would be of concern, but we’ve had a positive case in South Australia every day for the last few days,” Stevens told reporters this morning.

“We are holding where we are at the moment because we still do face a continuing risk of COVID-19 coming into South Australia, and we need to be confident that we’re able to get on top of it.”

Victoria reported a record 1763 new cases and four deaths today, while NSW posted 608 cases and seven deaths.

Stevens said the number of cases in Victoria was a factor in the transition committee’s decision.

“Clearly that changes the risk profile for all communities in Victoria and it has an impact on South Australia as well,” he said.

“So that’s something that we have to take into account.”

It comes after a range of “severe” new restrictions were introduced in the Mount Gambier, Grant and Wattle Range council areas yesterday.

They include a return to one person per four-square-metre density rules, a home gathering cap of two visitors, a maximum of 10 people at weddings and funerals, and bans on private functions and sport.

The State Government also tightened the cross-border travel bubble from 70km to 30km.

Stevens enforced the restrictions after a mother of four, who is from Mount Gambier, tested positive to the virus over the weekend.

She travelled to Casterton in Victoria, which was within the 70km cross border travel bubble, and returned home to Mount Gambier on October 1.

The woman, who is in her 40s, was tested at a drive-through clinic and taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital after experiencing serious respiratory symptoms.

She has since been discharged and is currently quarantining at Tom’s Court medi-hotel.

Her four teenage children have so far tested negative and are in quarantine, as have eight other primary close contacts.

Stevens said the restrictions imposed on the South East, which are expected to be in place for seven days, could lift earlier if new information comes to light.

“We’ve given that indication of a seven-day time frame so the community have some expectation of what they need to manage,” Stevens said.

“If we do get information that allows us to make changes earlier, we will do that.

“But history shows us that we need about that seven-day period to be able to demonstrate that there’s no community transmission in those particular locations.”

A further 21 secondary close contacts of the woman have also been identified, with five so far returning negative test results.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said more than 500 people were tested in the South East yesterday and urged anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to get tested as soon as possible.

SA Health is also planning to expand vaccination and testing clinics in Mount Gambier in the coming days.

“We’re definitely looking at the resources down there – our team was working on that over the weekend, so we’ll have more to say during the week,” Spurrier told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning.

SA Health this afternoon listed one new public exposure site in Mount Gambier.

The South Eastern Hotel SipnSave on 235 Commercial Street was attended by the positive case on Friday, October 1.

Anyone who was at the venue from 5.30pm to 6:05pm that Friday is asked to monitor for symptoms.

Authorities are still investigating where the woman and her family travelled, after a memo reportedly surfaced from Casterton Memorial Hospital suggesting she could have picked up the virus after visiting Melbourne.

Spurrier said SA Health is “quite comfortable” with the progress of its investigation into the woman’s movements and warned against rushing to judgement.

“There’s no benefit in public health going down that track about making assertions about people’s behaviour,” she said this morning.

“In public health, we rely on the public coming forward and we rely on that relationship that we build with people, and we know that if we have that trusting relationship, we get a lot further.”

Stevens said he has “not been specifically advised that this woman has lied”.

“Clearly there are some challenges in obtaining relevant, up to date information, but that’s the process [SA Health] are working through,” he said.

Asked whether the border bubble would expand again to 70km again if authorities determined the woman contracted the virus in Melbourne, Stevens said it would “[depend] on the circumstances that present themselves” and whether authorities can confirm she hasn’t stopped in any other regional locations.

“The limitation of the cross-border arrangement from 70 to 30 kilometres was because of the specific concerns relating to this woman,” he said.

“That will be taken into account as we move forward as soon as we get relevant information.”

South Australia reported one new COVID-19 case yesterday – a partially-vaccinated male truck driver in his 30s who tested positive in SA but has since returned to Victoria.

Spurrier said this morning that the latest truck driver case was “quite infectious” during his time in South Australia.

SA Health yesterday evening added to its list of exposure sites:

Anyone who visited the sites at the exposure times must quarantine for 14 days and get tested on days one, five and 13.

Meanwhile, authorities are planning to enforce a mandatory vaccination requirement for South Australians wanting to travel into Victoria or New South Wales under the cross-border bubble arrangements.

The new ruling is expected to be in force from next Monday.

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