A medical staff member takes details from people queuing at a COVID-19 testing site in Adelaide
A medical staff member takes details from people queuing at a COVID-19 testing site in Adelaide, Nov. 17, 2020.

SYDNEY - Australian officials are warning they face a “dangerous situation” in the coronavirus pandemic after reporting about 20 newly detected infections in the state of South Australia, its first outbreak since April. 

After seven months with no community transmission of the new coronavirus, South Australia is fighting to contain a cluster of new cases.   

Most of the recently detected infections are within the same family. 

The source is thought to have been a hotel in Adelaide where Australian travelers are placed in mandatory quarantine after returning from overseas.  An infected cleaner is believed to have passed on the virus to his or her large family, including a prison worker.  

Health authorities have been working to trace all known contacts of those within the Adelaide cluster. Thousands of people have been tested since it was discovered.  Just one new case was detected Monday, but South Australian premier Steven Marshall says vigilance is needed.

“This is a very dangerous situation.  If we work cooperatively with SA (South Australia) Health and SA (South Australia) Police on this one we should get on top of it. But it is really a very worrying situation, and we must act very swiftly,” Marshall said.

People are seen at a cafe after the state of Victoria saw COVID-19 case numbers drop in Melbourne, Nov. 17, 2020.

The state government has brought in new emergency restrictions in South Australia, including the closure of gyms, while international flights carrying returning Australian citizens and permanent residents have been suspended for seven days. 

The outbreak could hamper Australia’s efforts to reopen state and territory borders by Christmas.  Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are reintroducing quarantine measures on South Australian residents.    

But other jurisdictions, including New South Wales, have no plans to refuse entry to visitors from South Australia.  

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian. 

“What this does is reinforce for us how contagious the disease is and how unexpectedly cases and outbreaks can arise. But it is how you deal with those outbreaks, and we are confident that if that happened in New South Wales, we would get on top of it and similarly that South Australian authorities are getting on top of it and that is our understanding from our health officials here in New South Wales,” Berejiklian said.

New South Wales has recorded its 10th consecutive day without any community transmission of COVID-19, while Victoria state officials say they have now gone 18 days in a row without a new case following the easing of a strict lockdown in the city of Melbourne. 

Since the pandemic began, Australia has diagnosed 27,750 coronavirus infections. More than 900 people have died. 

Australia closed its international borders to foreign nationals in March.  

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