South Australia has added four new cases to its alarming cluster from Adelaide’s northern suburbs, taking the outbreak’s total to 20 with 4000 residents forced into isolation.
Another case is expected to be added to this cluster shortly while 14 more are also suspected to be linked, the state’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said on Tuesday afternoon.
Testing clinics across the state were inundated with people queuing for hours and some were even turned away.
There are now 34 active cases in South Australia, with the new infections linked to the now growing cluster from the city’s northern suburbs.
“I really want to stress this is early, early days in this cluster,” Prof Spurrier told reporters.
“While we had that large number over the weekend, we have had a significant number of new cases today.”
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Premier Steven Marshall described the outbreak centred around the Adelaide suburb of Parafield as a “nasty cluster”.
“We’re facing our biggest challenge to date and we can and we must rise to the challenge and that is exactly and precisely what South Australia has done,” he said.
“We had more than 5,000 people who tested yesterday (Monday). I‘m now advised that today we are on track for more than 6,000. This is nothing short of sensational and will be a record for South Australia.”
The Parafield cluster was announced on Sunday after the first known case — a woman in her 80s — was treated at the Lyell McEwin Hospital and later tested positive to the virus.
By Monday, there were 18 new cases, with 13 linked to the cluster — two of them being children and one baby — while the other five were international arrivals who are currently in a medi-hotel.
All positive cases linked to the cluster are quarantining in a hotel except for two which are hospitalised because of their age, with all reportedly in a stable condition.
A number of health alerts have been issued since the outbreak and numerous schools have been closed for deep cleaning, including Mawson Lakes School and Preschool and Roma Mitchell Secondary College.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the relatively slow increase in numbers is a positive sign the cluster could potentially be brought under control, but stressed “we are not out of the woods yet”.
“There is more to be done but we are in an extremely strong position,” he told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
“I have to say that South Australia as response is a model of early intervention and both the Prime Minister and myself have acknowledged that to our respective counterparts.”
Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have declared SA a coronavirus hotspot and shut its borders in recent days but Mr Hunt said this goes against the federal classification.
“Our message to the other states is please look at the results in SA,” he told reporters.
“Please make sure that your response is proportionate and what the Commonwealth has set out is enhanced border screening as an appropriate response and that is what New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have said.”