COVID-19 quarantine

Thursday December 02, 2021

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:09): My question is to the Premier. Can the Premier alleviate hospitality and tourism concerns that they will be effectively locked down for seven days every time they are deemed as a close contact venue? With your leave, and that of the house, I will explain.

Leave granted.

Mr BELL: Coming into the summer season, which is the busiest time for cafes and hospitality, many owners have raised concerns with me that their entire staff will be required to quarantine for seven days, even though they are double-vaccinated, if the venue is deemed a close contact. This will effectively render their businesses unviable because they will have no staff during the busiest time of the year.

The Hon. S.S. MARSHALL (Dunstan—Premier) (15:10): The member is right: if somebody is deemed a close contact, then they need to go into either seven days' quarantine and isolation if they are fully vaccinated or 14 days if they are unvaccinated. But we don't deem buildings or businesses close contacts. They could be exposure sites or transmission sites, and then within those we do a risk assessment.

Those people who are working there and who come into close contact for an extended period of time could be assessed as either requiring to have a testing regime put in place or, potentially, if they are in close contact for an extended period of time, so closer than 1.5 metres for more than 15 minutes or if they shake hands with a person—and a lot of it depends on some other factors with regard to the length of time, whether they are wearing masks or not, whether there was any physical contact, whether it was indoors or outdoors—all of this is taken into account in the risk assessment.

My belief is that we will do everything we can to minimise the disruption to businesses. One of the biggest issues in the earliest stages of the disease was when a case was found you would close the entire business, you would put everybody there into quarantine, you would do that for 14 days and you would actually do a deep clean. This often had very damaging results for those businesses that were affected by this.

We now move into a different phase, because we are moving away from the elimination of community transmission to the suppression of community transmission. Single cases aren't as critical as they were back three or four months ago. That's why now we are only really interested in people who are within a very close range for an extended period of time, or whether there was contact.

What I can say to every single business in South Australia is that the very best thing you can do is to make sure that your staff are vaccinated. For people who are working in there, we know that the transmission rate is much lower when people are vaccinated, but we also know that the severity of the symptoms are also much lower as well.

I was speaking to Professor Spurrier recently about examples where somebody might be working in a supermarket and come into contact with somebody for a very short transaction. Both might be wearing masks and there is no physical contact but they were in close contact with somebody who was a contact. Would they be required to go into 14 days or seven days? And the answer was no. It depends on the circumstances. Obviously, if there was a physical exchange, that would increase the risk level and increase the likelihood that somebody was put into isolation or directed quarantine.

I actually think that whilst there are scenarios where businesses could be potentially closed down if every person in the business came into close contact and prolonged contact without masks with physical contact indoors, in reality there would be very few cases that exist and quite different from what had occurred several months ago.