SA today yet again posted its biggest jump in confirmed coronavirus cases, which rose by 34 to 134 overall, with chief public health officer Dr Nicola Spurrier saying around half of those affected were being treated in hospital.
She said while cases continued to climb, she was hopeful a crackdown on cross-border movement and public gathering would mean “the numbers are not going to be increasing exponentially”.
“The good news is that we can still confirm that the testing done thus far in SA has not shown any sustained community transmission,” she told reporters.
She reiterated that she was strongly opposed to closing school, and would be more inclined to first crack down on environments where adults congregate.
But Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas today said the current testing regime excludes people showing symptoms but who have not travelled or been identified by SA Health as potential carriers, saying South Australians with symptoms “are being turned away from coronavirus testing clinics, despite our state now reaching 100 positive cases”.
Labor argues the practice goes against World Health Organisation advice to “test every suspected case”.
“While the Government claims there has not been community transmission of coronavirus in SA, it is impossible to definitively know that if not every suspected case is being tested,” Malinauskas said in a statement today.
Spurrier told ABC Radio earlier today wider testing was hampered because “we are short of a particular re-agent in Australia [which] comes from one of the overseas manufacturers”.
“No-one would have expected that this would have happened so quickly internationally, so stocks that we had ordered – and this is across all the jurisdictions – the orders haven’t been able to be honoured, because the company’s been unable to supply,” she said.
“So we’ve been doing as many workarounds as we possibly can, trying to ration the testing as much as possible [but] we’re doing more tests in SA than any of the other states and we started very early.
“We were testing people who were just having a respiratory swab… before we realised that there’d be a problem with the re-agent.”
She said SA Health had now “broadened our test criteria in SA”, with testing to extend to anyone who has travelled interstate in the last seven days and has shown respiratory symptoms.
It came as SA Senator Rex Patrick today took to Twitter to confirm he had returned a positive COVID-19 test – despite being asymptomatic.
The Centre Alliance senator, who replaced Nick Xenophon when the former NXT founder quit Canberra for a failed state tilt, said he had assisted SA Health “with comprehensive contact tracing and they’ll call anyone considered at risk”.
SA Health has advised me that, despite being asymptomatic, my COVID-19 test has returned positive. I have assisted them with comprehensive contact tracing and they’ll call anyone considered at risk. Nonetheless, anyone concerned about contact with me can ring 1800 020 080 #auspol
— Rex Patrick (@Senator_Patrick) March 23, 2020
The crossbencher has been in self-isolation at home after coming into contact with Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who also has the virus, while Nationals senator Susan McDonald and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had previously contracted the disease.
One of the state’s first confirmed COVID-19 cases – prominent businessman Bruce Carter – has told InDaily he too did not exhibit significant symptoms – including a high temperature.
Carter is the chair of shipbuilder ASC, who confirmed a staff member had tested positive on March 13 – the same day the Victorian Grand Prix was called off as the coronavirus crisis escalated.
Staff were later informed that the former Economic Development Board chair was the staff member affected.
He told InDaily today he expected “to be given the all clear” on his mandatory 14-day quarantine shortly and the effects in his case were “very mild”.
“It hasn’t included a temperature,” he said.
A swag of prominent South Australians today revealed they would self-isolate, with SA senator and Labor’s Senate Leader Penny Wong declaring she would remain quarantined in Canberra pending medical advice, and would not attend today’s scaled-down parliamentary sitting.
“This morning I woke feeling unwell,” Wong said in a statement today.
“Consistent with advice to all Australians, and recognising that my parliamentary colleagues will return to their home states and communities, as a responsible precaution I will self-isolate, pending medical advice.
“As a result I will not be attending the Senate today.”
Federal parliament is meeting to deal with legislation governing the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In state parliament, several committee hearings are being abandoned with today’s scheduled Budget and Finance Committee hearing delayed indefinitely, while ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander looks unlikely to face the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee for the remainder of his term.
BREAKING: Next scheduled Crime & Public Integrity Policy Committee has canceled its hearing. Likely now the Hon Bruce Lander Q.C will not give evidence or face questions relating to @ICAC_SA again for the remainder of his term.
CPIPC is the only democratic oversight of ICAC.
— Tom Koutsantonis MP (@TKoutsantonisMP) March 23, 2020
Port Adelaide players and staff, returning from the club’s comfortable win over the Suns on the Gold Coast – which came before the AFL suspended the entire season yesterday – will today begin two weeks of self-isolation.
The club today said in a statement that “on strong recommendation from SA Health and the State Government it has been determined that all Port Adelaide players, coaches and staff who travelled to the Gold Coast on the weekend… are required to self-isolate for the mandatory 14 day period”.
“Port Adelaide fully supports this decision and reiterates the health and safety of its players, coaches, staff and the broader community is paramount,” the club said.
“The club acknowledges every precaution must be taken against the spread of the coronavirus [and] encourages every one of our members and supporters to follow the instructions of the medical authorities and to continue to follow the social distancing protocols to protect them, their families and friends and the wider community.
“Together we will get through this.”
Up to 80 per cent of all AFL staff have reportedly been stood down without pay from today, with clubs facing temporary closures across a range of departments – including their football programs – as the AFL dictates a range of measures to reduce costs in the face of the biggest financial crisis in its history.
-additional reporting by AAP
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