South Australia announces six-day state-wide lockdown to stifle new highly contagious virus outbreak

(Reuters) – South Australia announced a six-day lockdown of the state on Wednesday to stamp out a fresh coronavirus outbreak that has now expanded to 22 cases, warning the strain of virus was highly contagious with a 24-hour infection rate.

As of midnight, a series of wide-ranging mobility restrictions will be imposed on homes and businesses for six days to allow “breathing space” for contact tracing, South Australia state Premier Steven Marshall said.

“We need this circuit breaker, this community pause. This is about South Australia pausing so that we stay ahead of the virus,” he said.

“We are going hard and we are going early. Time is of the essence and we must act swiftly and decisively.”

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said this particular strain of virus had a “very, very short incubation period,” which means when somebody gets exposed it takes just 24 hours or less for that person to become infectious.

The lockdown will mean people will be restricted from going outside of their homes, with only one person per household allowed to leave each day, but only for specific purposes.

Masks will be required in all areas outside of the home.

All schools, takeaway food, pubs, cafes and universities will be closed, along with the construction industry, which has been allowed to operate during past lockdowns in Australia.

Aged care and disability residential facilities, some of the most vulnerable to corornavirus, will be locked down.

Weddings and funerals will be banned, along with open real estate auctions and outdoor exercises. Factories other than food and medical products will be closed.

Regional travel is also not approved and FIFO (fly in fly out) resource work will be stopped for six days.

The latest outbreak is linked to an Australian who arrived in the state capital Adelaide from overseas on Nov. 2 and entered mandatory quarantine in a hotel. Hotel workers are believed to have contracted the virus after touching a contaminated surface.

South Australia had gone without a local transmission since Oct.31. It now has had a total of only 551 cases.

Elsewhere, in Victoria state, which was the epicentre of Australia’s nearly 28,000 cases until last month, clocked its 19th straight day of zero new cases.

New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital city, reported zero local and seven imported cases.