Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and WA have effectively closed their borders to South Australia after a COVID cluster in Adelaide grew to 17 cases.
Authorities believe the infection originated from somebody who worked in their hotel quarantine facilities and the state itself has reintroduced tough restrictions on residents and suspended international flights.
However, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt played down the alert and urged states to not reimpose hard borders.
South Australia recorded its first local COVID case in three months on Sunday when its tally grew to four, before rising to 17 on Monday. One of the cases is a man in his 60s who worked in the state’s “medi-hotel” quarantine centre.
For the first time in months, SA is now urging residents to work from home if they can and wear a mask on public transport. Community sport has been cancelled, venue capacity reduced and gyms are set to once again close.
Premier Stephen Marshall maintained his hotel quarantine system is “as good as anywhere in Australia”.
“As has already been indicated, we have been visited by other jurisdictions who’ve seen how we’ve done it,” said Premier Marshall. “We’ve also been independently reviewed and we’ve passed with flying colours.
“We are facing the biggest test to date but we can and must rise to this new challenge. The next 24 hours will be critical but not going to wait for the situation to deteriorate.
“This is a wake-up call for us that COVID-19 has not gone away. As much as we might feel frustrated by these ongoing restrictions, they’re there for a reason.”
On Monday, Queensland announced all SA arrivals from midnight would be forced into hotel quarantine, while those who have arrived from 9 November must go into retrospective self-isolation until 23 November.
WA resumed its hard border to SA, forcing those whose planes have landed to either turn back or go into self-quarantine.
Tasmania asked all arrivals from the area to self-isolate at home or in an appropriate location.
Finally, the Northern Territory forced all arrivals to go into mandatory quarantine in a managed facility.
NSW and Victoria have both kept their open border, though Victoria has declared Adelaide a hotspot, and will interview arrivals and possibly ask them to undergo a test.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, urged calm and asked states to continue to try and work towards opening up the country.
“What is important is these don’t get sort of locked in as part of another enduring disruption and as soon as South Australia is able to get on top of this I would expect that states would keep on the path that we have set towards [borders reopening by] Christmas,” PM Morrison said.
SA itself recently relaxed restrictions allowing all visitors from NT, ACT, Queensland, Tasmania and WA to enter without restriction.