South Australia didn’t report any additional cases of coronavirus as the state entered a strict six-day lockdown in an attempt to halt an Adelaide cluster that authorities worry could become a second wave.
The so-called Parafield cluster remained at 22 on Thursday with three people in hospital in a stable condition. There are 17 additional suspected cases.
The state’s chief health officer, Prof Nicola Spurrier, revealed the news at a testy press conference where the police commissioner clashed with reporters who questioned whether security guards at quarantine hotels should be allowed to work multiple jobs.
A hotel cleaner has been revealed as the source of the Covid cluster. She’s thought to have picked up the virus from a surface and then infected family members. A security guard at the same hotel who tested positive prompted further concern after it was revealed he also worked at a pizza bar.
“These people [guards] are part of their community and we require them to do a really important job at the moment,” the commissioner, Grant Stevens, told reporters.
“People have an entitlement to get on with their life when they’re not at work. So please, balance your expectations in relation to what we’re asking these people to do. You are being completely unreasonable – these people have lives.”
South Australian streets were eerily silent on the first day of the lockdown, which is intended to be a “circuit breaker”. It will be followed by a further eight days of less onerous restrictions.
The premier, Steven Marshall, urged his fellow South Australians to abide by the lockdown and to avoid looking for loopholes in the hope of returning to Covid-normal sooner rather than later.
“What we’re appealing for here is common sense,” the Liberal leader said on Thursday. “The order is essentially a stay-at-home order … we want Christmas to be as normal as possible, celebrating with our family and friends.”
Socially distanced queues were seen at supermarkets, with Woolworths announcing it would extend trading hours across the state to ensure people could safely shop during the lockdown.
Queensland’s health minister, Yvette D’Ath, announced on Thursday that the state’s police officers and staff working at quarantine hotels would be tested for the virus weekly.
“We will, from early next week, start testing our staff from hotel quarantine on a weekly basis,” she said. D’Ath said Queensland – which has a Labor government – had been singled out for criticism by federal government MPs for its strict border measures.
“My question to all of them is whether they still stand by those comments they made in the last 48 hours now that South Australia has made the [lockdown] decision that they have,” she said.
The Victorian Labor government also announced it would be shutting its border with South Australia until it implements a permit scheme. Under the hard border, in place for 48 hours, only freight drivers and those with medical or emergency reasons will be able to cross the border.
The premier, Daniel Andrews, said the closure was needed to preserve the progress Victoria had made since its months-long lockdown ended.
“Victorians have worked too hard and given too much to allow anything to put at risk our goal of reaching Covid-normal by Christmas,” Andrews said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to keep Victorians safe.” After 48 hours a permit scheme will be set up for those wanting to cross the border.
Coronavirus has been detected in wastewater samples from the regional Victorian towns of Benalla and Portland. Authorities are urging residents or anyone who passed through the towns between 15 and 17 November to be alert for symptoms and to get tested if they develop symptoms.
Thursday was the 20th consecutive day of zero deaths and zero new cases in Victoria. New South Wales had its 12th consecutive day of zero new cases and zero deaths.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, marked the occasion by announcing a series of special relaxed health orders for New Year’s Eve.
Up to 3,000 people will be able to attend outdoor events so long as Covid guidelines are met. Anyone visiting friends or family in the Sydney CBD will require a permit to do so.