The Adelaide pizza bar whose “lying” worker sparked a statewide coronavirus lockdown is under police guard as tempers run hot after Friday’s shock revelations.
South Australian authorities said the man, who also works as a security guard in one of Adelaide’s medi-hotels, finally admitted on Friday morning that he had a second job at the Woodville pizza bar.
He had earlier maintained he had only bought takeaway pizza from the outlet – sparking fears that Adelaide’s worrying Parafield coronavirus cluster was being transmitted through food packaging.
The pizza bar has been central to efforts to quell the outbreak, with SA health authorities telling anyone who had visited or even ordered takeaway they must quarantine for 14 days.
On Friday, a “fuming” Premier Steven Marshall said he would lift the state’s tough six-day lockdown three days earlier than planned after the worker’s admissions. He also hit out at the worker.
“Their story didn’t add up. We pursued them. We now know that they lied,” he said.
SA Police Commissioner Grant Stephens said the man claimed for several days to have bought a pizza from the Woodville restaurant, but actually worked there – increasing his exposure to the coronavirus.
South Australia issued stay-at-home orders and closed almost all businesses statewide, as well as schools and universities, as it dealt with the outbreak.
After Friday’s revelations, SA police were stationed outside the pizza restaurant. Reviews had also been disabled on social media and the restaurant’s Facebook page had been removed.
A public Facebook group set up in support of the pizza worker was also being flooded with abusive messages.
Mr Marshall said 14,400 people were tested across the state on Thursday.
The Parafield outbreak grew by three, to 25, on Friday. The new cases are all in people who are among the thousands of SA residents in quarantine.
There are also 44 more suspected infections.
Mr Marshall said the worker had deliberately misled contact tracers.
“To say I am fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement. The selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation,” he said.
“His actions have affected businesses, individuals, family groups and is completely and utterly unacceptable.”
Mr Stephens said South Australians would immediately be able to resume exercising outside their homes in family groups. From midnight Saturday, the state will begin to return to the restrictions it had earlier this week.
Schools and gyms will be able to reopen, and most people will be able to return to work as stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Masks remain strongly encouraged for South Australians, but are not compulsory.
“Thanks to the work of South Australia police, we have been able to uncover this lie and lift those restrictions as quickly as we can,” Mr Marshall said.
“What we have learnt from today’s revelation is there is a whole group of other people, other associates, that we need to trace down and put back into quarantine as quickly as we possibly can. And that work will go ahead, immediately, with the added sort of expertise coming from as a police.”
Mr Marshall said the Parafield cluster remained dangerous.
Mr Stephens said the worker would not be fined because there was no penalty for failing to tell the truth.
SA’s chief public health officer, Nicola Spurrier, said authorities expected to find more cases in the Parafield outbreak, despite Friday’s revelations.
“That is because we got so early in the beginning of this cluster, and how people were put in quarantine, and when we first tested them, they had not actually become positive,” she said.
“But we will be expecting that to happen now over the next couple of days.”