South Australia has recorded its first community transmitted coronavirus cases since April – seven months – after three infections were reported on Sunday.
The source of the new infections are not known with health authorities fearing hundreds of people in the city’s northern suburbs could have been exposed to the deadly virus.
The next 24-hours will be crucial in identifying the source of the “potentially disastrous” outbreak.
Meanwhile West Australia has caused chaos for travellers at Adelaide airport Sunday afternoon after being told they now needed to self quarantine for 14 days.
A woman in her 80s was diagnosed at Adelaide’s Lyell McEwin Hospital emergency department on Saturday after visiting on Friday night, leading to 90 staff and patients being ordered to quarantine.
The woman was in emergency for 10 hours on Friday and was tested early on Saturday.
Two of the woman’s family members, a female in her 50s and a man in his 60s, have tested positive for the deadly virus.
The three are all from the same family and are related to a staff member from a medi-hotel holding quarantined patients in Adeaide. Health authorities say they are considering this as the likely source but the information is “very, very early”.
Four other members of the family are showing symptoms and are awaiting coronavirus testing results.
The state’s chief health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier described the new cases as “very troubling”, revealing the woman had visited a suburban shopping centre, Parafield Plaza Supermarket.
She said the cluster is the worst outbreak in South Australia yet, fearing multiple public venues may have been visited by family members yet to be confirmed as infected patients.
“I’m expecting that we will have more cases,” Prof Spurrier said Sunday.
Chaos followed at Adelaide’s airport as WA immediately imposed restrictions on South Australian travellers, required to complete 14 days in quarantine. The border opened up just yesterday.
Anyone arriving from South Australia at Perth Airport will now be tested for COVID-19 on arrival (or within 24 hours of arrival at another COVID clinic) and on subsequent quarantine days.
The woman’s relatives work in a range of vulnerable industries, including health care, aged care and correctional services.
Anyone who visited Parafield Plaza or any other venue in the area and is showing symptoms is being urged to get tested immediately.
“I am expecting we will have more cases, which is why I am absolutely warning South Australians: this is a wake-up call — if you have respiratory symptoms, you‘ve got to get tested,” she said.
SA Health has issued a contact tracing alert for anyone who was at the Lyell McEwin Hospital between 5.30pm on Friday and 4.00am Saturday, as well as the Parafield Plaza Supermarket between 10.30am and 11.30am on Thursday.
Health authorities are now scrambling to contain the cluster by setting up temporary testing stations in the northern suburbs and contact tracing will focus on the medi-hotel where the family member works.
“Obviously, this is where we‘re considering the source to be,” Prof Spurrier said.
“This is a very close-knit family and they do spend a lot of time with each other.”
The woman in her 80s has been shifted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and is reportedly in a stable condition.
A fourth case was reported in SA but this patient was already in hotel quarantine, taking the state’s active cases to 19.