After several months without any locally-acquired coronavirus cases, the state of South Australia on Monday recorded a significant spike in new infections, breaking the country’s successful streak of community containment.
The state of around 1.7 million people recorded 14 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, up from just three the day before.
The cluster is thought to have spread from a hotel quarantine worker who passed the virus on to family members in the state’s capital Adelaide, according to health officials.
Of the 17 reported cases, 15 are from the same family. “It is a very dangerous situation that we’re in here in South Australia at the moment, and it’s really going to require the cooperation of every single citizen for us to get on top of this,” Premier Steven Marshall told local radio 5AA on Monday.
In response, all of Australia’s other states and the Northern Territory – apart from the most populous state of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, home to Canberra – have re-introduced travel restrictions on South Australia, declaring it a coronavirus hotspot.
Local media reported passengers arriving from South Australia being in tears when told they would have to suddenly go into 14-day quarantine when touching down in Western Australia on Monday morning.
Last week, Australia recorded three consecutive days of zero new locally-acquired infections across the country, at a time when cases soared across Europe and the United States.
The nation of around 25 million people has recorded just over 27,700 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic – significantly fewer per capita than most developed countries.
The country has taken a lockdown approach combined with rigorous testing and tracing to contain the virus.
South Australia’s premier was quick to announce that new coronavirus restrictions will be imposed on the state following the outbreak.
Marshall announced on Monday afternoon that from midnight gyms and recreational facilities would close across the state for at least two weeks and advised people to work from home when possible.
He also said that international flights would be suspended for the remainder of the week and asked South Australians to avoid any unnecessary travel.
“We have to go in hard and early to get this under control as soon as possible,” Marshall told reporters in Adelaide.
Pop-up Covid-19 testing clinic have been set up across the city, with long lines of people waiting for swabs in Adelaide’s north.
The state of Victoria, which had been at the centre of Australia’s second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday recorded its 17th consecutive “doughnut day” with no new Covid-19 infections or deaths.
Its capital city Melbourne came out of a harsh lockdown, reopening with limits on October 28. The city of 4.9 million residents had been under “stay at home” orders for 112 days.
Victoria’s virus death toll stands at 819, with the national figure at 907. New South Wales on Monday recorded no new locally-acquired Covid-19 cases for a ninth straight day.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian is confident with the New South Wales contact tracing system and is holding a firm stance on keeping domestic borders open.
“You can’t shut down borders and disrupt lives every time there is an outbreak and disrupt businesses,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
“We need to have confidence, not just in our own system, but the system in other states to be able to get on top of the virus.”