Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier is “cautiously optimistic” that the massive effort to combat coronavirus is flattening the curve as SA recorded 18 new cases for a total of 385.
Nineteen people are in hospital including seven in intensive care – all men, aged 52 to 77 – and five are in critical condition.
However, 44 people have now recovered and 322 are being treated in home isolation due to relatively mild symptoms.
Dr Spurrier urged ongoing efforts to fight the spread including hygiene measures and social distancing but said there was room for cautious optimism in the latest figures.
“I think things will go up and down,” she said.
One of the victims is understood to be a Qantas pilot, while the cluster linked to Adelaide Airport baggage handlers stands at 17 including five “close contacts”.
Henley High and Pennington Primary are closed until next term following cases in those schools.
SA Pathology now has done more than 30,000 tests and its rate of more than 15,000 per million population is a world leader.
More than 1000 people who have been close contacts of confirmed cases have been traced and are being monitored in self isolation.
A heat map showing the home sites of confirmed cases reveals Mitcham as a hotspot – Dr Spurrier said it may be that socio-economic areas of advantage are more likely to have a higher level of international travellers.
Most cases in SA are linked to overseas travel and the Ruby Princess cruise ship which is linked to 81 of the SA cases, including three today.
FMC expansion to start this month
The $45.7 million expansion of Flinders Medical Centre will be fast-tracked to help cope with COVID-19.
The expansion of FMC’s emergency department will be brought forward by four months to begin this month to help the system deal with the looming surge in coronavirus as the flu season hits.
It will see 12 beds added this week, ramping up to 30 beds for a total of 87 beds making it SA’s biggest ED.
Actual building work will still not start until next year but rushed reconfigurations in the plan will allow the ED bed increase.
Premier Steven Marshall said the move would cost taxpayers $2.7 million, adding: “This is a really important insurance policy for South Australia.”
Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said FMC is the state’s busiest ED and southern Adelaide has the highest proportion of elderly residents in the state.
“By bringing forward service moves from August to April our doctors and nurses will be able to have a dedicated space to assess and treat patients with coronavirus as well as other emergency presentations,” he said.
“As part of the early expansion emergency capacity will increase by up to 30 treatment cubicles and the ability to divert additional acute medical or surgical conditions to Noarlunga Hospital will begin from May.”
Earlier today, an employee at a National Pharmacies chemist in Adelaide’s west has tested positive for coronavirus.
“National Pharmacies confirms that on Tuesday 31 March an employee at our Findon store tested positive for COVID-19,” a statement from the pharmacy chain reads.
“National Pharmacies is working closely with SA Health to identify anyone who many have had contact with the employee.”
The pharmacy said the staff member contracted the virus outside the store “through a link to the Adelaide Airport cluster of infections”.
“The employee is recovering in isolation at her home,” the statement read.
“A further 15 employees who worked with her are in isolation at the direction of SA Health and are being tested for COVID-19 as appropriate.”
The chemist was forensically sanitised by specialist cleaners on Tuesday night and on Thursday morning SA Health advised customers that was safe to return to the store.
“They have forensically sanitised everything so provided customers maintain social distancing, it’s fine,” a spokeswoman said.
“It’s like the schools that have to shut down for a day for a clean.”
She added that contact with a known case was defined as 15 minutes face-to-face, which was unlikely in this scenario, however if any customers did develop symptoms they should contact their local GP.
On Wednesday night, it was revealed five more Qantas baggage handlers and two of their family members are among 30 new cases of COVID-19 in SA, bringing the total to 367 – and 13 cases linked to Adelaide Airport.
It is not clear if the pharmacy case is in addition to the 13 cases.
SA Health’s contact tracing team is trying to trace anyone who came into contact with her.
SA Health said anyone who visited Adelaide Airport over the past fortnight and had fallen ill must immediately self-quarantine and seek urgent coronavirus testing, after the Qantas COVID-19 cluster more than doubled.
In other developments on Wednesday, SA Health said 300 staff would be added to its contact tracing team tracking people who COVID-infectious patients had contact with.