Speculation is growing in South Australia that Premier Steven Marshall is about to announce tighter restrictions as the state grapples with a potential second wave coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Marshall postponed a morning briefing on Wednesday, after earlier confirming to local radio that more cases had been added to the Parafield cluster that is spreading across Adelaide’s north.
He is now due to speak at 12.30pm (local time).
South Australia introduced a host of lockdown measures as the cluster emerged on Monday. Gyms and cafes were among the businesses forced to close for at least two weeks, while there were also some limitations on gatherings and hospitality.
On Wednesday, Flinders University was among a host of sites added to the watch and alert list. Customers of Woodville Pizza Bar – even those who had takeaway delivered – have also been told to self-isolate for 14 days.
Testing sites have been overwhelmed in Adelaide this week, with more than 11,000 tests done.
There have been reports of people waiting up to 10 hours for a test, and others being turned away. On Tuesday, authorities advised “the worried well” to delay seeking a test until the peak demand had passed.
On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged NSW residents to delay travelling to South Australia if they could.
NSW authorities were confident South Australia had the outbreak under control “but we’re just saying to our community … if you can delay it for a few days unless you have to go there please do so”.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley had similar advice, asking South Australians to travel to his state only if it was essential.
“We’re monitoring very closely the position in South Australia but at the moment our public health advice is that the South Australians are staying ahead of this and on that basis we see no reasons to close our borders,” he said.
Victoria posted its 19th consecutive day without virus cases or deaths on Wednesday, from more than 17,000 tests.
NSW had its 10th day in a row without community transmission of the virus. It had seven more infections in hotel quarantine, with a similar number of tests to Victoria.
Mr Foley said all truck drivers travelling into Victoria from SA will be tested for COVID at the border from Thursday. Passengers arriving in Melbourne by air from Adelaide are also being screened at the airport.
NSW is also screening passengers who arrive from SA by air and train. They are having temperature checks and being asked if they have visited any of the expanding number of areas of concern.
- See the latest SA COVID outbreak information here
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the advice had come from chief health officer Kerry Chant, who had been in contact with SA authorities.
“We have no intention at the present time of closing the border,” he told Seven’s Sunrise program.
“What we do want is people to minimise their travel. We don’t want families to be separated unnecessarily and we don’t want business to stop.”
Australia’s two most populous states might have stopped short of shutting their borders, but Queensland, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia have already restricted travel from South Australia.
The NT amended its hotspot definition on Wednesday, narrowing it to include just Adelaide and some surrounding local government areas. It had previously applied to the whole of SA.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack railed against border closures on Wednesday, saying they were unnecessary as families looked to reunite over Christmas.
“What we need now is we do need businesses to reopen,” he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
“We do need Australians to get back to work and we do need those borders to be open.”
Simon Birmingham, the most senior South Australian federal government minister, praised the state’s response.
“The locals are nervous, it’s safe to say, these are challenging times for SA and everybody is on edge as to exactly what will unfold,” he told ABC radio.
The Tourism Minister said a huge testing, contact tracing and isolation effort was under way, with 4000 locked down in their homes.
“That gives us the best possible chance of successfully suppressing COVID in this state,” Senator Birmingham said.
About 100 Australian Defence Force troops are on the ground assisting authorities desperately trying to prevent a serious outbreak.
More support could be provided when requirements are determined.