'Kept getting positives': Fears as new coronavirus cluster grows

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·4-min read

There are fears hundreds have been exposed to coronavirus in South Australia after the state’s first locally acquired cases since April rapidly spread overnight.

South Australians have been warned the new COVID-19 cluster that broke out in the community after a quarantine worker infected family members is likely to grow significantly.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier told ABC Radio Adelaide on Monday morning there were a further 13 coronavirus cases overnight taking the cluster’s total to 17.

“We just kept getting positives coming off the machine,” Dr Spurrier said.

It is believed 15 of those cases are part of the original family cluster while two others are linked.

Premier Steven Marshall said he is “very concerned” over the outbreak and called for a swift response to what he described “very dangerous situation”.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has held an emergency meeting over the outbreak and while he says he is concerned over the cluster, he told ABC Breakfast he is confident health authorities will be able to contain the spread.

South Australia is on high alert after its first local cases since April. Source: Getty
South Australia is on high alert after its first local cases since April. Source: Getty

The cases emerged following pathology testing yesterday and overnight among those connected to the large family.

Dr Spurrier added two of the new cases were infectious while they worked at Anglicare’s Brompton aged care facility while another had worked a shift at a Hungry Jack’s restaurant in Port Adelaide.

SA Health announced on Facebook Mawson Lakes School and Preschool in Adelaide’s north would also be closed after a student was identified as a close contact to somebody diagnosed with Covid-19.

The rise in coronavirus cases come after three new locally-acquired virus cases were diagnosed on Sunday after woman in her 80s went to Adelaide's Lyell McEwin Hospital for testing.

A woman in her 50s and man in his 60s were later tested and also found to be infected.

"One of those people works in our medi-hotels," Dr Spurrier said.

"This is where we are considering the source to be.

"I am expecting that we will have more cases."

Virus spreading through ‘very large family’

Dr Spurrier said the infected trio has a very large family.

The older woman lives independently not in an aged care facility and is now in isolation at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

She is the mother of one of the younger pair, who are in a relationship.

Dr Spurrier told ABC it was “very clear” Adelaide’s new cluster was linked to the medi-hotel.

She urged people to get tested if they had symptoms and to not go to work.

“This just leads to a flow-on effect of a chain of transmission where more and more people can get infected,” she said.

Dr Spurrier said the older woman also visited Parafield Plaza Supermarket in Adelaide's north while infectious.

Prediction of multiple quarantine breakdowns

Earlier this month, Professor Archie Clements, epidemiologist and pro vice-chancellor of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University, told Yahoo News Australia he believed there would be further lapses in biosecurity across the country after Melbourne’s hotel quarantine breakdown.

“It may happen on multiple occasions, it might be that we eradicate [coronavirus] and then there’s a breakdown by biosecurity, there’s an outbreak, we get on top of it and then we eradicate it again,” he said.

“That pattern is highly likely I’d say until there’s high levels of population immunity as a result of a vaccine.”

Passengers on a flight from Sydney to Adelaide in September. Source: Getty
Passengers on a flight from Sydney to Adelaide in September. Source: Getty

Testing blitz in a bid to curtail spread

Contact tracing is also underway for about 90 staff and patients at the Lyell McEwin Hospital who may have come into contact with the 80-year-old woman.

All staff working at SA's quarantine hotels have been ordered to undertake mandatory virus testing every seven days.

"It's obvious that this is the highest risk in Australia right now is this risk of importation (of the virus) in our quarantine hotels," Dr Spurrier said.

The new rule includes police, nurses, concierge, cleaners and security guards.

Daily testing rates in the state have been routinely over 2,000 since late September.

Dr Spurrier called on South Australians to come forward and get tested.

“This is a wake-up call, if you’ve got respiratory symptoms, you’ve got to get tested,” Dr Spurrier told 5AA on Monday.

Images emerged on social media on Monday showing lengthy queues at the Parafield testing site.

with AAP

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