The Australian state of South Australia reported 14 new coronavirus cases on Monday, a dramatic increase from the previous day, prompting the country's other states to tighten internal borders and amid concerns of a new virus hot spot.
South Australia ended a months-long streak of no Covid-19 infections on Sunday, reporting three locally-acquired coronavirus cases after a worker from a quarantine hotel infected family members, the authorities said.
By Monday the number in the state had jumped to 17, prompting several other states to impose new border restrictions amid fears that an outbreak in the state that has so far avoided the brunt of the pandemic could spread further afield.
‘We just kept getting positives coming off the machine,’ South Australia Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
‘We haven't got the genomics yet, but I'm absolutely certain it has come from a medi-hotel,’ she added, using the term for quarantine hotels.
Since neighbouring Victoria state came out of a lengthy lockdown earlier this month to contain its own virus outbreak, Australia has recorded several days of no new coronavirus infections.
Australia has only recorded near 28,000 coronavirus infections and just over 900 deaths due to strict measures such as international and state border closures, lockdowns, mandatory social distancing and widespread testing and tracing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new South Australian infections were ‘a reminder, even after a lockdown, even after all this time, the virus hasn't gone anywhere’.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he was offering a national contact-tracing system and defence force personnel to help South Australia stop the virus from spreading, and ‘if more is required, more will be provided’.
Western Australia, which also borders South Australia, ordered new arrivals from the state to undertake mandatory tests and self-isolate for 14 days, the island state of Tasmania ordered immmediate self-isolation for people who had arrived from South Australia in the past week and the Northern Territory ordered people arriving from the state to enter supervised quarantine.
The premier of Queensland state tweeted that ‘anyone about to leave Adelaide should be advised we are assessing the Covid-19 outbreak and may place restrictions on travel, including mandatory quarantine on arrivals’.
The states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, home to more than half the Australian population, meanwhile did not announce changes to internal border controls.
‘I don't think it is a sensible approach, moving forward, to shut your borders every time there is an outbreak,’ NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
‘A number like that, whilst very concerning for a state the size of South Australia, because of the circumstance of this particular case, our health authorities don't believe we need to change any of our policy settings.’
Australia meanwhile said it would spend A$1 billion ($726.3 million) underwriting construction of a vaccine manufacturing plant under a deal with a unit of biomedical giant CSL Ltd , guaranteeing supply of flu shots and antivenins.
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