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‘Don’t want that to happen here’: Extreme efforts to avoid outbreak like Victoria

The sense of urgency from the hour-long press conference in South Australia on Wednesday was palpable. Government authorities, and the country as a whole, have witnessed what happens when a COVID-19 outbreak takes hold.Only this month Victorians celebrated the months-long “ring of steel” lifting between the city and regions, and Melburnians being allowed to travel…

The sense of urgency from the hour-long press conference in South Australia on Wednesday was palpable.

Government authorities, and the country as a whole, have witnessed what happens when a COVID-19 outbreak takes hold.

Only this month Victorians celebrated the months-long “ring of steel” lifting between the city and regions, and Melburnians being allowed to travel more than 25 kilometres from home.

Victoria’s coronavirus death toll hit 819, compared to two-figure totals in other jurisdictions.

In an attempt to avoid seeing that situation again, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has announced a six-day lockdown followed by eight days of less restrictive measures as a “circuit breaker” to the state’s growing cluster.

“We know Victoria was in lockdown, substantial lockdown, for 112 days and we want to have six days,” Premier Steven Marshall said, adding that it is “so that we don’t have much more pain down the track”.

“We know the consequences if we don’t get this right.”

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Mr Marshall said they “cannot wait to see how bad this becomes” because it would be “disastrous for South Australia”.

“We must act swiftly and decisively on the health advice to stay ahead of the game,” he said.

“We need breathing space for a contact tracing blitz. To protect the elderly, to protect the vulnerable, to protect the entire community.”

The punitive measures are “to stop a far harsher lockdown”, he added.

ENTIRE STATE IN LOCKDOWN

SA’s chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the “extreme” measures would affect the entire state.

“We don’t have a ring road or a circle of steel that we can put in place,” she said.

Prof Spurrier stressed she couldn’t know whether “somebody who went and got a pizza” at Woodville Pizza Barr, which has been identified as a high-risk location, “then went and travelled somewhere into our regional centres”.

“So this is applying to everybody in South Australia, and we are all going to do this together,” she said.

Regional travel is not approved under the measures to be enforced at midnight on Wednesday.

“I need everybody to basically find a safe place to be for the next six days and stay there as much as possible,” the chief public health officer said.

RELATED: Full list of extreme restrictions in SA

Prof Spurrier said all of the positive coronavirus cases in the community have been linked.

“It means we are very early at the beginning of this and we have a very, very short window of opportunity to close it down and stamp it out in our community,” she said.

Prof Spurrier said she was surprised the first wave of COVID-19 was “only very short” and also that there were not “little pockets in our community that popped up from time to time”.

“But clearly, if it is reintroduced into a community, it takes off very quickly and that is exactly what happened in Victoria,” she said.

“I don’t want that to happen here in South Australia and I am going to do everything possible to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”

RELATED: How SA’s cluster is eerily mirroring Victoria’s horror outbreak

Face masks remain mandatory in Victoria however after more than a fortnight of zero cases, Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged a potential change to the policy this weekend.

The advice around mask wearing has ramped up in South Australia and on Wednesday, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said “masks will be required in all areas outside the home”.

Mr Marshall clarified this would not be part of the direction enforced from midnight “because it will take time for people to get provisions of those face masks”.

“We did provide strong advice, strong public health advice on Monday, when social distancing could not be maintained we were asking people to wear those masks, especially on public transport, but it is not part of the direction.

“Ultimately, it could be part of that directions so we are encouraging people to get hold of face masks, they are a good line of defence but the most important one is to stay at home.

“By doing this, you will have the best chance possible of stamping out the cluster.”

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