South Australians are spending their first day in lockdown as the state embarks on a six-day "circuit breaker" to contain a COVID-19 cluster.
The government says the pause in most community activity will significantly reduce the risk of the virus spreading further. It could also prevent the need for a much longer Victorian-style shutdown.
However some experts are warning the lockdown will be extended passed the stated six-day period.
"We need this circuit breaker, this community pause. We are at a critical point," Premier Steven Marshall said.
From today all schools are closed along with universities, pubs, cafes, retail stores, food courts and takeaway food outlets.
It is the strictest lockdown seen in the country, with pictures emerging online showing completely empty streets Thursday morning.
Woolworths revealed on Wednesday it would stay open but apply purchasing limits to a host of items from Thursday including toilet paper, paper towel, milk and rice.
Coles has taken similar action, banning customers from buying more than two units of items including face masks, hand sanitiser, toilet paper, meat and eggs.
There were scenes of chaos on Wednesday as residents rushed to stores to buy what they could before being subject to Thursday’s tough lockdown rules.
Regional travel has been banned for the state and aged care centres are in lockdown.
Factories are closed, along with the construction industry, and elective surgery has ceased.
Weddings and funerals are banned along with all outdoor sport and exercise and masks will be required outside the home.
People who are not essential workers will only be allowed to leave their homes once each day to buy groceries or to seek a COVID-19 test or other medical treatment.
Supermarkets, petrol stations, medical centres, critical infrastructure, public transport, airport and freight services, banks, post offices, school and childcare for essential workers and veterinary services are open.
The business sector has backed the lockdown but said it could be devastating for the state economy.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described it as a "pre-emptive and temporary" strategy to keep South Australians safe.
“The establishment of a pre-emptive and temporary six-day lockdown to keep South Australians safe and stay ahead of the outbreak draws on lessons from earlier outbreak experiences,” the prime minister said in a statement.
“These are precautionary and temporary measures with a clear end date."
Mr Morrison said the federal government would continue to support SA in every way possible.
— ABC Adelaide (@abcadelaide) November 18, 2020
All being well, the lockdown will be replaced by eight further days of heavy but less stringent restrictions.
Still, there seems to be an undertone of panic brewing among residents, some who have shared their concern to social media.
“It’s only just started and I feel sick with stress already. I’m a single guy. I had to quarantine back in March for two weeks. It’s mentally tough to be alone. We can’t even exercise. Hopefully it is six days not three months like Victoria,” one wrote to Twitter.
Others were in favour of the move and hopeful it would prevent a longer lockdown in future.
“Good. Shutdown now before s*** gets really bad,” another person tweeted.
Lockdown will ‘likely’ be extended, expert warns
Leading epidemiologist and World Health Organisation advisor Mary-Louise McLaws told ABC Breakfast this morning that South Australians should be braced for a longer lockdown.
“I would suspect that they're telling the public to start with six [days] to get them ready with their resolve and resilience. But it's probably likely it might have to go for a bit longer,” she said.
“They will know a little better when they've got about 70-90 per cent of all contacts.”
Prof McLaws said the lack of mask mandate was likely because the lockdown was so strict, with residents unable to be out exercising.
“But I'd be putting in every single infection prevention and control measure possible, because they've got 22 or 23 cases now. So, it's grown very rapidly, and I imagine they're [health authorities] very frightened.
Asked what she would do differently, she said: “I think that I'd get them used to the idea that they will be in lockdown for 14 full days, that they need to use face masks, and that they can go out walking.”
Number of Adelaide sites a ‘concern’
The tough measures are the government's response to the so-called Parafield cluster which increased to 23 confirmed cases on Wednesday.
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said it was vital to act quickly to stop the chains of transmission.
A number of sites across Adelaide are of key concern, particularly a pizza bar, where a worker tested positive, two northern suburbs schools, a hospital and a swimming centre.
People who visited those sites have been asked to quarantine and get tested.
Almost 40 other locations are listed as places confirmed cases have visited in recent days, with people there at the same time asked to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they feel ill.
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