South Australia virus lockdown begins amid hopes to curb outbreak

(Reuters) – One of Australia’s strictest lockdowns kicked off in the country’s south on Thursday with outdoor gatherings, weddings, funerals, takeaway food all coming to a standstill as authorities try to stifle a fresh coronavirus outbreak.

Images on social media showed empty morning streets in South Australia’s capital of Adelaide on day one of the lockdown. Last night, residents flocked to supermarkets to pile up on supplies.

The state, home to about 1.8 million people, has so far recorded 23 cases from the current cluster. There were no new cases on Thursday while 3,200 close contacts of those infected are already in quarantine, chief public health officer for South Australia Health Nicola Spurrier told a news conference.

Authorities, on Wednesday, had imposed a six-day lockdown to stamp out what the state premier described as a highly contagious outbreak of the coronavirus disease that officials linked to a returned traveller from the UK.

“We’ve had to take this extreme action, this important intervention, to put a circuit breaker in place to deal with this disease,” South Australia Premier Steven Marshall told national broadcast ABC.

“We have a particularly difficult strain of the disease, which is showing no symptoms for people who become infected,” he added.

When asked if six days would be enough, Marshall said: “I’m advised that that will be the time required to knock out those transmission chains for this particular strain.”

Elsewhere, Victoria state, which was the epicentre of Australia’s nearly 28,000 cases until last month, clocked its 20th straight day of zero new cases.