Two new cases of COVID-19, both linked to the Parafield cluster, have been recorded in South Australia.
Two new cases of COVID-19 have been identified and linked to SA’s Parafield cluster
The two people are contacts of previous cases
There are now 33 cases linked to the cluster
SA’s Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, said both people were already in quarantine.
One of the cases is a young child who is a member of the original family affected by the outbreak.
The second case is a man in his 30s — a student of the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) at Flinders University — who is a casual contact of a previous case.
He and his family members are being interviewed to establish if there were “any other locations of interest” to let the public know about.
In a statement today, IELI director Ben Rowley said the school had encouraged all pupils to isolate after an earlier student tested positive on November 17.
He said the school was working closely with SA Health to aid contact tracing efforts.
“We have reached out to SA Health to offer our assistance in contacting anyone from the IELI community to help speed up contact tracing efforts,” he said.
Mr Rowley said when the first IELI student tested positive on November 17, they “very quickly made the decision to close the school immediately, notified all stakeholders and requested that all staff and students stay home, isolate and get tested”.
“The school has remained closed since the 17th of November with classes continuing online,” he said.
The total number of cases linked to the Parafield cluster now stands at 33.
Around 5,800 close contacts or “contacts of contacts” linked to the cluster remain in quarantine.
Today’s cases follow Premier Steven Marshall’s announcement yesterday that restrictions would be eased at social gatherings and along the Victorian border.
CHO ‘disappointed’ in low testing numbers
Professor Spurrier said she was a “little bit disappointed” to see only 3,840 COVID-19 tests were carried out on Friday.
The number is a significant drop from record-high daily testing rates in the previous week, with about 19,000 tests carried out seven days earlier, on November 21.
Professor Spurrier said heatwave conditions across much of the state yesterday could have contributed to the lower numbers, but urged South Australians to keep getting tested.
“It really is the key to our defence at this point in time from the Parafield cluster,” she said.
“And you need to get tested no matter what, no matter how mild the symptoms, and on the day.”
Professor Spurrier again encouraged South Australians to wear masks where social distancing was difficult, especially in supermarkets and shopping centres.
“There are two things to remember — the first is to get tested. The second thing is that we are really pushing for everybody to be wearing masks when you’re out and about.”
Professor Spurrier said she was also “pleased to report that the one person who’d been in hospital has now been discharged”.
Nineteen active cases of coronavirus remain in South Australia, down from 36 earlier in the week as people are cleared of the virus.
South Australia has recorded two new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and both are believed to be linked to the Parafield cluster.
Two new cases have been linked to the Parafield cluster
One is the Woodville High School case and another a close contact with an existing case
An SA Government app will have a QR code feature added
A man in his 40s has returned a positive test, and authorities have said he is a close contact of someone who is linked to the cluster.
His case takes the total number of cases in the cluster to 31.
“This person was in quarantine and was quarantining with his family,” Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said.
“So we feel quite confident that because of the circuit breaker in that period of time and because our contact tracing team had been able to get hold of the people involved with this part of that cluster, we don’t have a risk of that going any further forward.”
The other case was announced last night — a teenage girl who attends Woodville High School.
Dr Spurrier said the year 11 studenthad been linked from an “epidemiological point of view” through contact with the Woodville Pizza Bar.
Genomic testing had still not been completed, she said.
“It looks as though she has had an exposure at the Woodville Pizza Bar, having picked up a pizza on November 14, which indeed was an infectious period and we knew there were people that were there that were infected,” Dr Spurrier said.
The school has been closed today and anyone who attended on Monday, November 23, has been ordered to isolate immediately with their families.
More pizza bar contacts missing
Dr Spurrier said everyone associated with the school on that date had been contacted, but there may be some people connected with the pizza bar who had still not come forward.
“The important thing is if you did get a pizza from that pizza bar and you haven’t been tested, now is the time to do so,” she said.
While Premier Steven Marshall last week blasted a pizza bar worker for allegedly lying about working at the shop, Dr Spurrier would not lay the blame on the girl for going to school when she had had some contact with the pizza bar.
“The fact that she did get tested, I am so pleased about,” she said.
There are now 31 cases linked to the cluster.
One woman remains in hospital but she is in a stable condition.
About 4,800 people linked with the cluster are now in quarantine.
Nearly 10,000 people were tested in South Australia yesterday, and a new air-conditioned Adelaide Showground testing site will open on Friday, when hot weather is predicted.
About 95 per cent of staff at the Peppers Waymouth Hotel, where two new cases were detected yesterday have been tested and cleared of coronavirus.
QR code app launched
The Premier also announced this afternoon an official app to be used by people to check in to businesses using QR codes.
The South Australian Government’s MySA GOV app will have a feature added to it for people to scan QR codes, which are similar to barcodes, to help with contact tracing.
Mr Marshall said it would help open the economy and support jobs from its start date of next Tuesday, December 1.
Paper forms will be available as a back-up and for people without smartphones.
Dr Spurrier said she visited Rundle Mall earlier today and noticed “some people” wearing face masks.
She urged more people to don them, especially as crowds grew in the lead-up to Christmas.
“We really do want to encourage people to wear masks because it’s going to be crowded and you will potentially be in close contact with a large number of people from all over South Australia,” she said.
Anyone who was at the high school on Monday this week has been told to isolate immediately, as have all members of those people’s households, until further notice.
About 1,000 students have already gone into isolation.
This morning, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Mike Cusack said the case was part of the Parafield cluster, in which COVID-19 was spread by a cleaner and two security guards at the Peppers medi-hotel to close contacts and family members.
Dr Cusack said the link between the cluster and the student’s case is suspected of being trough the Woodville Pizza Bar, where one of the security guards had worked while infectious.
But Dr Cusack said the exact way the high school student caught the virus was yet to be established.
He said SA Health contact tracers had worked through the night in efforts to narrow down how the virus was transmitted and who may be at risk.
“We do believe that the case is linked to the Parafield cluster and does not represent unknown transmission in the community,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“The link that we’re looking at, at this stage, is the pizza bar.
“We believe that the student was in school on Monday when they were likely to have been infectious.”
He urged anyone who has been in the Woodville area, and who develops COVID-19 symptoms, to self-isolate and get tested for the virus.
Education Department staff and industrial cleaning crews have arrived at Woodville High School this morning, where multiple cleaning crews are undertaking a deep clean of the site.
That claim South Australian health authorities to believe the virus was extremely transmissible and that potentially thousands of people could have picked up the virus from getting food at the pizza shop.
South Australia’s coronavirus cluster remains a matter of intense investigation, as police, health authorities and the SA Government try to determine how the virus escaped quarantine.
A security guard, not a cleaner, was today identified as the suspected cluster source
Authorities have trawled through hundreds of hours of CCTV
Investigations into how it spread, and who was involved, are ongoing
The story has so far centred around Peppers medi-hotel and a suburban pizza bar.
Twenty-nine cases have now been included in the cluster, including two people initially thought to have contracted COVID-19 overseas, but later confirmed to have caught it while in quarantine.
Most of the cases so far are close contacts of a cleaner and two security guards at the hotel contracted the virus.
Until today, the cluster was believed to have started when the cleaner contracted and then passed on the virus.
But the story took another twist.
What do we know about the source?
For most of the past fortnight, authorities believed that a cleaner had picked up the virus up from a hard surface, before spreading it to two security guards at the hotel and more than a dozen members of her family.
But SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier today said that theory had changed after authorities scrutinised CCTV to determine “who was on what floor at what time”.
Professor Spurrier said it was now believed one of the security guards, not the cleaner, may have been the first person to contract it within the hotel.
“At this stage we will have some working hypotheses about how we think both that initial security guard and then the couple who were the travellers in a room, became infected.
“But we may never be able to say 100 per cent because, of course, we’re reliant on going back to the history and looking at that footage.”
Did staff do anything wrong?
Police have looked over about 500 hours of CCTV vision from Peppers, and have provided still images to SA Health.
Professor Spurrier said the images showed that “nobody was in the wrong place at the wrong time” and that “no significant breaches” had been identified.
“All staff have worked in those hotels, really doing the absolute utmost, and really working to a very high standard,” she said.
“In addition to the CCTV footage, we’ve had to go through detailed staff lists and roster lists to see who was where at particular times.
What about the link to the pizza bar?
Authorities initially thought a Spanish national who contracted the virus had caught it after ordering take away from the Woodville Pizza Bar.
But they later accused the man of lying — police said he instead worked at the pizza bar alongside a co-worker who was one of the Peppers hotel security guards who had tested positive.
It is unclear whether that person is the same security guard as the one identified by Professor Spurrier today as the likely “index case”.
Adding to the confusion, the Spanish national himself worked a second job in the kitchen of another of Adelaide’s medi-hotels — the Stamford Plaza.
While the man — who remains in hotel quarantine — has disputed information provided by authorities as “not fair” and inaccurate, SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens today rejected that.
“I don’t think that there’s sufficient clarity about what he may be referring to,” he said.
Police have not given any details about the man’s motives.
What’s the current situation with the cluster?
Of the 29 active cases, one is in hospital in a stable condition, and about 4,300 people are in quarantine.
SA Premier Steven Marshall today announced urgent plans to overhaul the state’s medi-hotel system.
Those changes include moving all people who test positive to coronavirus into a separate medical facility, managed by SA Police and protective security officers.
Mr Marshall said staff working at that medical facility will not be allowed to work in any other high-risk environments.
South Australia will also ask National Cabinet to approve a new restriction on returning Australian travellers, which would prevent them flying to SA unless they have recorded a negative COVID-19 test first.
South Australia has announced urgent plans to overhaul its medi-hotel system, amid a coronavirus cluster that emerged from Peppers Waymouth Hotel in Adelaide.
All positive COVID-19 cases in quarantine will be moved to a dedicated facility
SA wants travellers to record a negative test before getting on flights to Australia
It comes after two recent arrivals were revealed to have caught the virus while in quarantine
Those changes include moving all people who test positive to coronavirus into a separate medical facility, managed by SA Police and protective security officers.
Premier Steven Marshall said staff working at that medical facility will not be allowed to work at any other medi-hotels or “other high-risk environments, including aged care facilities, correctional facilities or hospitals”.
There are now 29 cases linked to South Australia’s Parafield cluster that is believed to trace back to an infected security guard at Peppers.
Mr Marshall said he would discuss the planned changes with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) but would not wait for them to approve changes before implementing them.
He will also ask national cabinet to consider introducing a regime for testing returning Australians before they board their flights home.
The old Wakefield Hospital in Adelaide is one option currently being considered for the dedicated health facility for COVID-19 patients.’
Staff will also have access to accommodation if they chose to stay away from home while working there.
Security guard, not cleaner
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said said analysis of Peppers security vision confirmed that it was a security guard who contracted the virus first from a returned traveller, and not a cleaner as first thought.
“There’s no significant breaches identified … it’s much more subtle than that.”
She said investigations were now focusing on small details to try and understand how the virus was passed on to the security guard.
“We need to go and look at the really tough information about … when somebody might have touched their mask, for example, when they might have touched another surface,” she said.
“We’re even going to the extent of looking at when the vacuuming was done on the floor, and when bags of food have been placed outside people’s rooms.”
Professor Spurrier said that changes to the medi-hotel system would be made as soon as a possible dedicated facility was ready with staff, beds and appropriate protocols.
“This is a really important thing that we are doing here in South Australia and we will get it done as soon as we can,” she said.
Some returned travellers at the Peppers hotel are undergoing a second round of quarantine as a result of the Parafield cluster.
“I would be very sure that they are not having to re-start [another round of quarantine],” she said.
But she could not guarantee that, saying quests “would be the first to know” when the decision is made.
She said there were no new cases of coronavirus in the state today.
A woman in her 50s is in a stable condition in hospital.
More than 9,400 tests were conducted in South Australia on Tuesday.
Authorities in South Australia say two coronavirus cases previously believed to be acquired overseas have now been linked to the local cluster.
SA Health said on Tuesday afternoon testing had been undertaken on two cases that had previously been identified as overseas-acquired infections.
It can now be revealed the pair have the same strain of the virus as the patients in the Parafield cluster, bringing the total number of people infected to 29.
They are staying at the Peppers Waymouth medi-hotel, which was involved in the outbreak that led to the brief statewide shutdown last week.
“There is no additional risk to the public as the cases are linked to a medi-hotel staff member who has previously tested positive for COVID-19, and contact tracing has previously been undertaken,” SA Health said in a statement.
“As a precaution, we are undertaking additional testing at one of our medi-hotels for all staff and guests today.”
One of the two cases had been announced earlier in the day as the state’s only new coronavirus infection.
Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said the man, who is in his 20s, was a close contact of a previously confirmed overseas arrival, and remains in a medi-hotel.
She said the state was another step closer to busting its COVID-19 cluster, but warned the public to remain cautious.
“I haven’t popped the cork on the champagne bottle yet but it is on ice,” she said.
“We haven’t finished the job yet and every South Australian has their part to play.
“I’d like to see how we go this week, to see the testing numbers go up. As we’ve said with previous clusters, we’d like to see two full incubation cycles so we have a bit of a way to go but I’m feeling quietly confident … we can get back to where our restrictions were.”
There were 6822 tests done on Monday, which Dr Spurrier said was “a little bit of a drop” compared to last week’s numbers.
More than 670,000 tests have so far been conducted statewide.
“Even if you think it’s not COVID, I want you to get yourself to a COVID testing site and get tested regardless of where you are in the state,” she said.
“Anybody who has any symptoms whatsoever or feeling not quite yourself, go and get tested.”
She also urged people to continue wearing masks in places they could not physically distance, like on public transport and in shops and shopping centres.
“There are really nice ones on the market … and when people are going out in public, have one ready in your back pocket.
“I’m sure the people serving in the shops will be most grateful that you’re wearing one.”
Premier Steven Marshall said the state was in a good position to stare down the second wave.
“This could have been a potentially catastrophic situation in SA but the swift and decisive actions taken following that unequivocal health advice has put us in a very good position,” he said.
“I want to thank every single South Australian for playing their role in making sure that we didn’t have this second wave.”
The new infection is not linked to the Parafield cluster, which has 27 infections connected.
It brings the state’s total number of cases to 557 with 39 considered active.
More than 4000 people are still quarantining.
The man in his 30s who was previously hospitalised has been released.
UPDATED | Authorities are urgently testing staff and guests at a city medi-hotel after revealing a shock development in the Parafield coronavirus cluster late this afternoon – which emerged as the Spanish man who allegedly “lied” to authorities last week, sparking a statewide lockdown, today broke his silence.
In a dramatic afternoon, the mystery Spaniard, in SA on a graduate visa, released a statement through his lawyer – expressing remorse but claiming some of the information about him had been inaccurate and unfair – while authorities revealed the infections of two recently returned overseas travellers are linked to the cluster – and were picked up while they stayed in a city medi-hotel.
The travellers are a husband and wife – both aged in their 20s in quarantine at the Peppers hotel on Waymouth St since their arrival on November 11 – who up until now authorities believed acquired the disease overseas.
Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told media at a hastily-assembled 5pm press conference that all staff and guests would be urgently tested, saying “we think this is being really abundantly cautious” and “we don’t expect to have any more positives”.
“It is very interesting information and of course my staff and I are working through the implications of this,” she said.
“I knew that COVID-19 was highly transmissible – it’s even more transmissible than what I had initially thought.”
She said even with the best PPE (personal protective equipment) and training “you can still transmit this virus”.
“It’s really sneaky,” she said.
Spurrier said she had details of the medi-hotel transmission chain but wouldn’t release that information to the public until a review had been finalised.
It comes amid another major development late today, as the Spaniard whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown expressed “extreme remorse” for his role in the drama, but declared, through his lawyer, that some information in the public debate “is not fair, accurate or complete, notwithstanding the State Government’s comments” about his alleged “lie”.
Professor Nicola Spurrier addresses media late today.
The male traveller’s case was announced today as SA’s only new reported COVID infection, with Spurrier earlier telling reporters it wasn’t linked to the cluster.
“We do have one new case in SA but it’s not part of the Parafield cluster,” she said this morning.
“It’s a close contact of a previously confirmed overseas arrival that we reported a couple of days ago.
“And this is a man in his 20s and he is in a medi-hotel, so it’s not associated with the Parafield cluster and it’s just that one case.”
But this afternoon, SA Health issued a press release saying genomic testing had now linked this case – as well as the woman’s infection – to the cluster, which now sits at 29 cases.
“Genomics test results have returned this afternoon linking two people – one of which is today’s case – to the Parafield cluster,” the statement said.
“Both these people were previously believed to have overseas-acquired COVID-19 infections.”
The statement said there was “no additional risk to the public as the cases are linked to a medi-hotel staff member who has previously tested positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing has already been undertaken”.
“As a precaution, we are undertaking additional testing at one of our medi-hotels for all staff and guests today,” the statement said.
An SA Health spokeswoman said it was unclear exactly which staff member the cases were linked to.
Three staff have tested positive – a cleaner, who authorities have previously said they believe is the original source of the cluster – and two security guards.
Spurrier today rejected the need for an independent inquiry into the medi-hotel system, saying “what we want to do is have continuous quality improvement”.
Asked if this was more evidence of a potential breach in the medi-hotel, she said she was “pretty confident there hasn’t been someone in the wrong room at the wrong time”.
She said the shock result – linking the two hotel guests to the Parafield Cluster strain – was “a bit unexpected”.
“I thought it was more likely the genomics would show the travellers had brought it in from a another country or whatever, but this is what we found,” she said.
Police and SA Health are already reviewing nearly 500 hours of CCTV from Peppers to determine the movements of staff and guests, as part of their investigation into the movements of another man who worked at the Stamford medi-hotel – a 36 year old Spanish national – whose alleged “lie” about his work arrangements prompted the unnecessary statewide shutdown.
That Spanish national, whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown – later aborted after the Premier declared the man had misled contact tracers – today broke his silence.
Solicitor Scott Jelbert, Principal at Camena Legal and Migration, issued a statement declaring he was “acting for the person under investigation for his conduct concerning contact tracing information and connected with the Woodville Pizza Bar and the recent COVID-19 shutdown in South Australia”.
“My client is in quarantine and I make this brief statement on his behalf,” he said.
“He is extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for any part his conduct played in any unnecessary lock-down actions.
“He did not foresee or intend that things might unfold as they have.”
Jelbert said that since entering quarantine his client “has had limited information about government media releases, public opinion and social media”.
“I am however instructed that some information is not fair, accurate or complete notwithstanding the State Government’s comments, and he is concerned he has been all but publicly named,” Jelbert said.
“My client’s current focus is on cooperating with the authorities and completing quarantine.
“He is sincerely concerned about the impact of the lockdown on South Australians.
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“My client has not been charged with any breach of the law but in the circumstances, including that such charges may emerge, no further comment about those matters is appropriate at this time.”
Spurrier was hesitant to respond to the man’s statement, but when asked if it was possible contact tracers might have misunderstood any information provided by him, she said: “We’ve got a range of staff, they are very well-trained. If we have problems and difficulties with language we do try and get an interpreter.
“There are sometimes language barriers, there are sometimes misunderstandings, we are talking about human beings here. But what I can say is that the contact tracers have done absolutely the very job that they can.”
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