Lengthy queues have been forming at South Australian shops throughout Wednesday afternoon after the announcement the entire state will go into a strict six-day lockdown to deal with its concerning COVID outbreak.
Liberal Premier Steven Marshall announced on Wednesday a plethora of shutdowns would begin at midnight and apply to the whole state.
They include shutting down most businesses, ordering people to stay at home and requiring masks to be worn outside homes.
It came as SA added two more COVID cases to the cluster spreading throughout Adelaide’s north on Wednesday.
Mr Marshall said the state needed a “circuit breaker” to undertake a testing and tracing blitz. Restrictions will apply for at least six days, with other measures to follow for eight more days after that.
“We are going hard and we are going early. Time is of the essence and we must act swiftly and decisively,” Mr Marshall said.
From midnight Wednesday, schools, universities, pubs, cafes, outdoor sport, elective surgery, weddings, funerals and more will be shut down across SA.
Also included are a shutdown of construction, pausing real estate inspections, a ban on regional travel, locking down residential aged care and disability facilities, and closing non-essential factories.
Childcare and schools will remain open only for children of essential workers, and vulnerable children.
South Australians have been told to stay home unless for essential reasons. Only one person per household will be allowed to leave, once a day, for essential shopping. People will not be allowed to leave to exercise or travel.
— Steven Marshall, MP (@marshall_steven) November 18, 2020
Supermarkets, public transport, medical care, petrol stations, banks and post offices will remain open. Officials stressed there was no need to panic-buy food or supplies at shops, saying stores would remain open.
“Masks will be required in all areas outside the home,” SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said.
“If you are in a location at the commencement of these restrictions you will be required to stay there.”
SA’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said she hoped the strictest rules would only be needed for six days, but that other restrictions would remain for at least 14 days.
“This is really the one chance we have got of having a normal Christmas. If we leave it too much longer, then that chance disappears,” she said.
The police commissioner said officials were “still working on the final list” and that further restrictions may be placed later today.
South Australians, this news is tough- but we must STOP the panic buying.
Supermarkets will remain open.
There is no reason to risk the health and safety of yourself and retail workers by rushing to the shops.
— Josh Peak (@Josh_Peak) November 18, 2020
Secretary of the SDA union Josh Peak, which represents shop workers, asked people not to panic buy.
Images of long lines of South Australians snaking through supermarkets have already spread across social media.
State opposition leader Peter Malinauskas said his Labor party would support the government’s plans.
— Bryce Heaton (@bryceheaton9) November 18, 2020
In a statement on Facebook, the opposition leader said his party would back the health response.
“We’re going to fight for each other, not against each other. Which means, as far as I’m concerned, unlike in Victoria, as Opposition Leader I’m here to support the government, not undermine it,” he wrote.
“That starts with having complete faith in our public health officials. We’re going to back in their judgement, and never doubt their motives.”
Federal officials scrambling
In Canberra, health officials are scrambling to bolster SA’s health response, as well as reinforce the nation’s wider quarantine system.
Acting chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said SA’s “hard, fast and broad” response would “give them the best chance of getting on top of the outbreak.”
He also warned hotel quarantine was now “the main game” for stamping out further spread of COVID here, saying that with virus rates exploding worldwide, more people may be bringing it back as they return home to Australia.
Professor Kelly said the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee, the nation’s overarching medical advice body, had recommended overnight that all state and territory governments increase virus surveillance at quarantine sites, including testing workers at least once a week.
He added that defence force personnel and federal health experts were also rushing to SA to assist.
Earlier today I spoke with Premier Steven Marshall on our way back from Tokyo who has kept me updated on the latest…
En route to Canberra from Tokyo, where he had been for an official visit, PM Scott Morrison backed SA’s “pre-emptive and temporary six-day lockdown”.
“These are precautionary and temporary measures with a clear end date,” he wrote in a statement on social media.
“We will continue to support South Australia and the SA Government in every way we can as they deal with this most recent outbreak.”