SA's new COVID-19 cluster spells worst fears in country regions

IN DOUBT: Saturday's Murray Bridge Riverfront Christmas Festival and pageant, which annually attracts thousands of spectators, could fall victim to the latest coronavirus cluster. Photo: Murray Valley Standard
IN DOUBT: Saturday's Murray Bridge Riverfront Christmas Festival and pageant, which annually attracts thousands of spectators, could fall victim to the latest coronavirus cluster. Photo: Murray Valley Standard

South Australia's worst fears leading into Christmas were realised on Sunday when an 80-year-old woman from the state tested positive to the coronavirus in the community.

The confirmed outcome which quickly rose to 17 reported cases on Monday instantly dissolved a seven-month streak of no unknown source transmissions recorded.

Undoubtedly the news has left regional communities shattered and fearful of what the festive season may spell.

According to Barossa Mayor Bim Lange, the new outbreak has left people in his patch "cautious".

The wine destination was one of the first SA country regions to make national headlines when a group of tourists in the Barossa Valley were placed in quarantine after testing positive to COVID-19 in March.

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In response the Mayor met with the council's CEO on Monday, piecing together a plan of what this outbreak can potentially mean should it escalate.

"We've learned some lessons from the initial stages, so let's not be complacent...it's about being prepared," he reminds his community.

The fresh cases have since seen the Barossa's coronavirus testing station at Tanunda become flooded.

"What this shows us is people aren't taking it [the outbreak] lightly; they are being cautious and that's what we need to continue to be doing."

SA councils currently remind the public if they are unwell or feel unwell to become tested immediately, with Mayor Lange urging his community to opt for essential events and activities.

Just defer any unnecessary things for a while until we know the full ramifications of what could be the result of this outbreak.

Barossa Mayor Bim Lange

"Just defer any unnecessary things for a while until we know the full ramifications of what could be the result of this outbreak," he added.

On the state's West Coast tight border restrictions returned between South Australia and Western Australia is causing havoc for its tourism operators.

Tourism operators

Border Village Roadhouse manager Cliff Cooper said the outbreak and the subsequent restrictions, which also include Northern Territory, has resulted in visitor cancellations.

"We have been getting a lot of cancellations and a lot of calls from people asking us if we know what is going on," he said.

"We have people here who are stuck and cannot get across to WA.

"It doesn't help after such a long period of uncertainty. We were looking good until Sunday."

The SA announced cluster has left Paula Gust in the state's South East nervous for the full outcome.

Cross border community

On Friday, Ms Gust had responded with praise to the state government's lifting of hard border restrictions between the SA and Victorian on December 1.

The administrator of the Cross Border Call Out Facebook page and www.crossbordercallout.com had shared how the news was "overwhelming" and "fantastic" for all concerned.

Yet on Monday, the communities were left disadvantaged by what she said was the "inevitable".

"On Friday, while people were happy, they weren't jumping up and down that the border was to open, it was more so they were also thinking it could be taken away," she said.

"We have had it tough for so long...the irony is it didn't come from a cross border member, that's fact."

However, added those living either side of the border were left "shocked' to discover those working in medi-hotels were not put through rigorous COVID-19 tests.

"We were put through 16 weeks of weekly testing, where is the logic."

Christmas parade in limbo

This Saturday's Murray Bridge Riverfront Christmas Festival and pageant, which annually attracts thousands of spectators, has also fallen in doubt

Pageant organisers have told the Murray Valley Standard it's now a waiting game.

They currently work with SA Health officials and will keep the community updated.

Aged care measures

Meanwhile, Resthaven Aged Care Home is among peak state bodies to already implement firm precautionary measures.

While they have no known cases among their 12 state sites, management have made the decision to cease visiting at all their residential aged care homes until further notice.

"We also strongly recommend residents remain on site and avoid visits into community settings during this time," a spokesperson said.

"We will continue to review our visitor arrangements as further information becomes available."

SA government will deliver a press conference to the community from 3pm on Monday.

More updates to come.