World

South Australia declares a six-day lockdown

State chief declares a 6-day circuit breaker after signs of community transmission emerge

SYDNEY South Australia yesterday declared a six-day lockdown to stamp out what the state premier described as a highly contagious outbreak of the coronavirus.

Most businesses will close except for some food outlets, and people will be largely confined to their homes, as the state tries to avoid a more severe breakout like the one that all but shuttered neighbouring Victoria for more than 100 days.

"We need this circuit breaker, this community pause," South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said yesterday. "We are going hard and we are going early. Time is of the essence and we must act swiftly and decisively."

The state, home to just under 1.8 million people, reported two new cases yesterday, taking the total to 22. The cluster started to emerge at the weekend, representing the first serious signs of community transmission in South Australia since mid-April.

While case numbers remain modest, Mr Marshall said the state needed to act quickly because the identified virus strain was "highly contagious with short incubation period and limited symptoms".

The authorities said yesterday a hotel cleaner contracted the virus from a quarantined returned traveller from Britain. The cleaner then spread the virus to her extended family in Adelaide, the state's capital.

Meanwhile, daily cases in South Korea and Tokyo hit fresh highs yesterday. South Korea tightened social distancing rules, and Tokyo said officials would meet today to discuss if the city needs to raise its infection alert to the highest level.

"We're in a crisis where there are pessimistic views that predict another nationwide transmission," South Korea's Vice-Health Minister Kang Do-tae told a meeting.

BAN

South Korea, which eased social distancing rules last month, reported 313 new cases yesterday, the highest since August.

"Infections are now occurring simultaneously in every corner of our society, real-life situations, unlike the past when there were large outbreaks from a specific place or group," Mr Kang said.

From today, the country will ban public gatherings of 100 people or more, limit religious services and audiences at sporting events to 30 per cent capacity, and require high-risk facilities, including clubs, to broaden distance among guests.

In Tokyo, new daily cases hit a record 493. The Nikkei business daily reported the Tokyo government was considering raising its infection alert to the highest of four levels as early as today.

Chief government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said officials would meet to discuss raising the alert, adding different regions required different measures because contagion conditions varied.

"A monitoring meeting of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government last week recognised this was the beginning of a rapid spread of infection, a serious situation requiring extreme vigilance." - REUTERS

WORLD