Published on : Friday, November 20, 2020
The state of South Australia recently announced a six-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown for its nearly two million people in a bid to contain a sudden coronavirus outbreak with a total of 22 new cases reported from an Adelaide hotel used to quarantine travellers from overseas, ending its month-long streak of no infections. The new restrictions arrived amid fears that the latest outbreak has the potential to infect high-risk populations, with care workers and a prison guard among those already testing positive.
Schools, shops, pubs, factories and even takeaway restaurants were asked to close at midnight and stay-at-home orders were issued for residents across the state. All weddings and funerals have also been banned and mask-wearing in public has been made mandatory all across the state. It is also the first time that an Australian state has issued a blanket ban on outdoor exercise. All South Australian residents have been asked to only leave their homes for essential purposes, to buy groceries or for health reasons. All international flights have been suspended and thousands of suspected close contacts have been ordered to self-isolate since the confirmation of the cluster.
As the state observed the first-day of its circuit breaker lockdown, South Australian businesses are left disrupted once again. Hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes and gyms are some of the businesses highly affected by the lockdown. Most of the hotels in South Australia have been hit with large-scale cancellations, with many losing hundreds of bookings. The Great State travel voucher that was provided as a part of the tourism stimulus package to boost visitor economy and local jobs was set to expire in December but has now been extended until March to deal with the latest crisis.
Several other Australian regions, where the virus has been largely contained, have imposed new quarantine rules on anyone travelling from South Australia. The country’s internal borders had been gradually reopening and were due to be almost fully reopened by Christmas, but the latest outbreak is likely to put that under threat. It will also further slow the return of more than 30,000 Australians who continues to remain stranded abroad due to government-imposed caps on international travellers despite a government pledge to bring them home by the holidays.
State Premier Steven Marshall said in a statement that authorities have decided to go hard and early as they cannot wait and see the situation becoming worse. He mentioned that time is of the essence and swift actions are necessary. Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier shared that the latest infections appeared to be caused by a particularly virulent strain that was spreading extremely fast with people becoming contagious within 24 hours. She mentioned that decision was required to arrive fast in order to prevent from being too late. However, she also mentioned that the state is hoping to avoid a lengthy Melbourne-style lockdown.
Adelaide residents have been flocking to COVID-19 testing sites since the latest outbreak, with many forced to wait several hours in long queues to be seen by overwhelmed clinicians. The surprise lockdown announcement also sparked a fresh round of panic-buying in Adelaide, prompting supermarkets to introduce two-item limits for certain goods and to issue assurances that they would remain open. South Australia police commissioner Grant Stevens also mentioned that police officers would remain on standby to attend any kind of civil disorder during the lockdown and immediate action would be taken.