South Australia’s police commissioner has defended the state’s hotel quarantine workers, saying no one has the right to criticise someone for having a second job.
Grant Stevens is angry at the public furore over an infected security guard who had a second job at a pizza shop, which was been linked to the spread of coronavirus in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
“It’s unreasonable to expect someone not to get on with the rest of their lives when not working in quarantine hotels,” he told Nine Network on Friday.
“Stopping them from having a second job doesn’t stop them from spreading the virus if they do contract it in a medi-hotel.
“They still have families and other commitments in the community.”
Mr Stevens stressed having people quarantining when they’re not working in a medi-hotel was unrealistic.
SA is now into its second day of a hard lockdown to circumvent a potential second wave of infections in the state spreading from the so-called Parafield cluster in Adelaide.
The restrictions are expected to be eased back on Tuesday to at least a partial lockdown, depending on case numbers.
On Thursday the number of confirmed infections was reduced by one to 22, but 17 more people are suspected of having the virus.
Premier Steven Marshall said SA had learned from watching surging infections in Victoria and other parts of the world.
“COVID-19 is highly infectious, extremely dangerous and very difficult to eradicate once it gets a foothold in a community,” he said on Thursday.
“So we need this circuit-breaker, this breathing space for a contact tracing blitz.”
Under the lockdown, all schools are closed, along with universities, pubs, cafes, retail stores, food courts and takeaway food outlets.
Supermarkets, petrol stations, medical centres and other essential services remain open but people can only leave their homes once a day to buy groceries.
Mr Stevens said the response from the community so far had been exceptional.
“Adelaide is like a ghost town,” he said.
“People are doing their very best to abide by the restrictions and I think it’s a genuinely collective effort to make sure that this is a short lockdown.”
Meanwhile, unions in SA are calling for pandemic leave payments to be extended to cover casual and other workers hit by the statewide lockdown.
SA Unions secretary Angas Story says the federal government must help workers who have lost their incomes.
“It’s fine for governments to act swiftly to protect community health but they must also act quickly to ensure precariously employed workers are not disproportionately hurt in the process,” Mr Story said.
“A wider payment of pandemic leave will help the economy before Christmas and ensure low paid workers are not pushed into further debt stress.”
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Leave Disaster Payments already provide support for people forced into quarantine because of the virus, but can only be accessed if they have been told to self-isolate by a health official.
Mr Story said that could cover thousands of people forced into quarantine by Adelaide’s Parafield cluster.
But tens of thousands of workers, who were casuals or were stood down without pay as a result of the lockdown, might not be eligible.
He said for a worker, there was not much difference between being directed to stay at home by a health official or being directed to stay at home by a blanket government directive.