Health authorities in South Australia have defended the coronavirus-infected man who left quarantine to visit several Adelaide shops, saying he thought he was “doing the right thing”.
The man, in his 30s, attended several locations across Adelaide on Sunday, November 22, when he was supposed to be quarantining at home.
He had been directed to quarantine after being identified as a casual contact of a confirmed case at the Intensive English Learning Institute at Flinders University’s Sturt campus earlier in the month.
Deputy chief public health officer Emily Kirkpatrick told ABC Radio Adelaide on Monday that the man had returned a negative test on the first day of his quarantine.
She emphasised that the man was a casual contact, not a close contact, of another case, but would not clarify any further details about him or why he travelled to so many destinations in one afternoon.
“I don’t want to go into the specifics of this individual in terms of his circumstances,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
“But he was under the impression he was doing the right thing and could be out and about.”
After returning a positive COVID-19 test result, he was transferred to a medi-hotel, along with his close contacts.
“He was a casual contact and was required to quarantine and have tests on day one and day 12 – and fantastic that he did go and get these tests on day one and day 12,” she said.
“Of course, then we’ve picked it up on his day 12 test that he was, in fact, positive.
“If you have that negative day one test, it doesn’t mean you can go out and about in the community.”
Retailers frustrated by man’s itinerary
Retailers affected by the man visiting their stores while infected responded less favourably.
SA Independent Retailers group’s Colin Shearing said the man’s actions had had “massive ramifications” for a Foodland outlet and other businesses the man visited.
“There were 70 people working at that particular store at Norwood [Foodland] on the Sunday,” he said.
“They’ve all been asked to go home and be tested and wait in quarantine until they get a negative result.”
On Sunday, SA Health issued an alert for people who visited several “high-risk” locations to seek testing immediately and isolate until they receive results.
SA Health said people who on Sunday, November 22, were at Big W Brickworks between 12.15-12.50pm, Foodland at Norwood between 1.20-2pm, and Kmart at Kurralta Park between 2.45-3pm should urgently get a COVID-19 test.
People who were at the Flinders University Sturt Campus between November 13 and 28 are also urged to get tested.
The man visited several other locations on the same Sunday, and SA Health is urging people who were at those places to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they arise.
Professor Clare Pollock, senior deputy vice-chancellor at Flinders, said the Sturt campus has undergone deep cleaning.
The campus includes nursing students and allied health areas.
“We would have probably around about 200 staff and students who would have been in that area over that period of time,” Professor Pollock said.
“We have been communicating with all of our staff and students over the weekend just in case any other of the staff or students were down in that location over that two-week period.
“We’re going to keep that campus area closed until this Wednesday to make sure we’ve got everything covered.”
‘No way’ to ensure people self-quarantine
Asked whether the individual could face penalties, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said he was “aware of the circumstances”.
“We’ll be collecting the information from SA Health in relation to this particular individual,” he said.
“We’ll make an assessment in relation to what we can deal with and go forward from there.
“To extend some credit to this individual, this person has had a second test and disclosed all the locations they’ve been at.”
Commissioner Stevens said there was “no mechanism” to ensure people are self-quarantining as ordered.
“There’s no mechanism, there’s no IT solution at this point in time, and we’re doing some work in the background to see what we can establish in that regard,” he said.
The commissioner said the planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday – including easing of border restrictions with Victoria – would still go ahead.
“We’ve had no direct advice from health that would impede the steps we’re hoping to take tomorrow, as of midnight tonight,” he said.
“Things are still on track.”