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South East restrictions lifted in time for weekend

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Tough restrictions imposed on the South East earlier this week have been lifted, while the cross border travel bubble will be extended back to 70 kilometres, after the region recorded no new coronavirus infections over the past five days.

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Effective immediately, the council areas of Mount Gambier, Grant and Wattle Range can return to the same level of restrictions as the rest of South Australia.

The change means sport, functions and larger home gatherings can resume in time for the weekend.

A direction to be signed later this afternoon will also extend cross-border travel from 30km back to the previous 70km, except for the Victorian town of Portland, where authorities have detected “strong indications” of COVID-19 in wastewater testing.

The tightened restrictions were imposed on Monday afternoon after a woman from Mount Gambier tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday following a visit to the Victorian town of Casterton.

SA Health launched an investigation to determine exactly where she travelled, but in a statement issued earlier this week, the health department said it would only share information “where reasonably required to prevent a public health risk”.

The woman is currently quarantining in the Tom’s Court medi-hotel with her four teenage children, who have tested negative.

Police Commissioner and State Emergency Coordinator Grant Stevens told reporters after this morning’s transition committee meeting that there was “no further evidence from all of the analysis that’s been undertaken and investigation so far of any community transmission”.

“The people that have been identified as close contacts or secondary-level close contacts of this person have all been identified, (ordered) into quarantine and have tested negative,” he said.

“Her close family members have all tested negative as late as the 6th of October.

“These are all very positive signs (and) there’s no evidence of COVID-19 in the wastewater testing for the concerned areas.

“All of these things allow us to revert to where we were prior to this concern being brought to our attention.”

The State Government today announced it would provide grants of up to $3000 for eligible employing businesses and grants of $1000 for non-employing businesses in the council areas of Mount Gambier, Grant and Wattle Range to help them financially recover from the tough restrictions.

The grants are targeted at tourism and hospitality businesses, or any other business that experienced at least a 30 per cent reduction in turnover while the restrictions were in place.

It comes after InDaily yesterday reported calls from Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell to redirect $700,000 of taxpayer funding for the “FOMO Friday” campaign to help Limestone Coast businesses.

Treasurer Rob Lucas this morning said that the Government was doing “all it can to save as many local jobs and businesses as possible”.

“Tourism and hospitality businesses in the Lower South East in particular have done it tough this week, with additional trading restrictions brought in from Monday, and a reduction in the cross border corridor,” he said.

“That’s why the Marshall Government is providing this targeted financial support to businesses in the Lower South East who have been impacted.

“I have written to the Commonwealth Treasurer the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP seeking his support for Commonwealth funding of 50 per cent of the grants, consistent with funding arrangements agreed between the States and the Commonwealth since the 7-day lockdown in July.” 

SA Health to reconsider City-Bay ban

Meanwhile, Stevens said SA Health was considering allowing the running component of the City-Bay fun run to go ahead, after it yesterday cancelled the popular event for the second year in a row due to concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19.

Stevens said he had spoken to health authorities this morning and, as a result of the discussion, “SA Health will be having another look at separating the running component of the City-Bay with the end of event festival”, which he said could attract “tens of thousands of people”.

“They are two different things (and) SA Health is going to have a look at what the implications are of separating those,” he said.

“There is no guarantee that there will be any change to the decision, but they will be looking at whether there are options to allow the running component.”

The race committee yesterday expressed disappointment at SA Health’s decision to cancel the entire event, saying they had spent months trying to comply with safety requirements.

SA Health is also having discussions with Adelaide Oval management and SA Police about ensuring “as many people as possible” can attend the Ashes Test in December.

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