South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier has warned that coronavirus cases linked to the Victorian outbreak could be circulating undetected in the SA community, after a drop-off in the number of daily tests.
- The number of coronavirus tests dropped off over the weekend after surging last week
- Professor Spurrier says it is “quite possible that we do have COVID in our community”
- A new vaccination hub has opened in Elizabeth
While testing surged across Adelaide last week in the immediate aftermath of Melbourne’s lockdown being announced, Professor Spurrier said numbers had declined since then.
“I was a little bit disappointed over the weekend when I saw the number of tests being done in South Australia. It was about 4,000 or so,” she said.
“Victoria — they are having 40,000 [or] 50,000 people getting tested every day.”
A total of 5,064 tests were carried out in SA on Sunday, according to SA Health figures — down from more than 7,000 on Friday and more than 8,000 on Thursday.
Professor Spurrier said while there have have been no new positive cases reported in SA linked to the Victorian outbreak, testing rates were not high enough to rule out the possibility of the virus spreading back across the border.
“It is quite possible that we do have COVID in our community because of that traffic back and forth across the state,” she said.
“The amount of testing done here in our state really is not high enough for me to feel absolutely confident about whether or not we have something happening here.”
SA has been linked to the Victorian outbreak through a case at a medi-hotel, and imposed travel restrictions with Greater Melbourne early last week before extending the hard border to regional Victoria on Friday.
“We did put our borders in place but … there’s been a lot of traffic between the two states,” Professor Spurrier said.
“If anybody has even the mildest respiratory symptoms, headaches, sore throat, it’s so important that you go and get a COVID test this week.”
SA Health has sent 50,000 text messages to people who have been in Victoria since May 6, asking them to fill in a questionnaire to see if they need to get tested or self-isolate — but only 22,000 people have so far responded to the survey.
About 1,500 South Australians known to have visited exposure sites in Victoria are currently in quarantine.
The list of COVID-19 exposure sites in Victoria today grew to more than 270 and Victorian health officials now believe the infectious period dates back to May 11.
“Anybody who has been to Victoria or anybody that knows somebody who has been to Victoria — it is absolutely critical that you have a look at the exposure sites, even though you might not have received a text message from us at SA Health,” Professor Spurrier said.
Two new coronavirus cases were detected in SA yesterday — two men, aged in their 30s and 50s, who caught the virus overseas and are in hotel quarantine.
There were no new cases reported today.
AFL requests travel exemption
Professor Spurrier said the AFL had been in contact with SA Health to request an exemption for Collingwood players to enter the state for their game against the Adelaide Crows on Saturday.
“We would look at that process — as we would with any request for exemption — very closely, and a decision would be made that would absolutely put the safety of South Australia first,” she said.
“We need to look at the risks. As more exposure sites have been listed in retrospect we would obviously need to make sure anybody that was coming into South Australia and not quarantining had not been at any of the exposure sites.”
Last year, Professor Spurrier intervened to revoke travel exemptions granted to six Victorian family members of Port Adelaide footballers.
At the time, she said the decision to grant the exemption was a mistake by a member of the SA Health exemption committee, and special treatment should be reserved for people visiting dying relatives or attending funerals.
Speaking at the opening of a new vaccination hub in Adelaide’s north on Monday, Professor Spurrier urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible.
“When you see what is unfolding in Victoria it really is so important that all South Australians take advantage of getting vaccinated, if you are in the eligible cohort. This is of course people who are 50 years and up but for Aboriginal people it is people 16 years and over,” she said.
The latest vaccination hub is based in the Playford Civic Centre in Elizabeth, and will provide both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to those eligible.