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Lie and pizzeria: Why Australian officials reversed the lock

It was the lie that gave the lock – and it depended on pizza.

After dozens of coronavirus cases surfaced in South Australia this week, the government quickly stopped issuing burdensome home warrants. Masks were mandatory. Restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops were closed, along with schools.

But two days later, officials abruptly reversed course, saying on Friday that the infected person had “deliberately misled” a contact tracking team in the city of Adelaide. It all came down to his connection to a pizzeria.

It turned out that the man at the Woodville pizza bar was not a customer, as he told followers, but a part-time employee and close contact with another coronavirus patient who also worked at the restaurant. This was important because health officials initially feared that the newly infected man became infected with the virus only for a short time, which they thought could mean a virulent strain.

South Australia’s top official, Stephen Marshall, told reporters on Friday that given the new information, the blockade of the country would end three days earlier than planned.

“To say I’m inflated about this man’s actions is an absolute understatement,” he said.

Schools, restaurants and gyms were to be reopened, but the new rules include a limit of 50 people at funerals and a ban on dancing at weddings. Mr Marshall said contact trackers still needed a “breathing place” to continue investigating the source of the outbreak, the worst in the state in recent years.

Contact tracking is considered a vital tool to limit the spread of coronavirus. Places like South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have combined technology and data with old-fashioned detective work to track people who may have crossed the road with an infected person.

However, such systems can fall apart when governments fail to support citizens through burdensome quarantines. Or, in this case, when the person being tracked deceives the followers.

After a woman received positive coronavirus tests at a hospital in Adelaide, health officials found she had been infected by her daughter, a cleaner at a downtown hotel used to quarantine Australians returning from abroad, the country’s national operator said on Friday. . The cluster later expanded to include two security guards at the hotel, one of whom worked part-time at the Woodville pizza bar.

The man, who lied to contact detectives, said he bought food from the restaurant, refusing to tell them he was in close contact with one of the infected guards.

“This is obviously changing the circumstances, and if this person had been loyal to the contact tracking teams, we would not have entered a six-day blockade,” Grant Stevens, a police commissioner in South Australia, told reporters on Friday.

Another consequence, he said, was that police were now in a hurry to identify and locate the man’s accomplices – a process that would not have been necessary if he had told the truth in the first place.

The man will not be punished because there is no legal mechanism to prosecute him, Mr Stevens said. Police did not say anything about why he may have chosen to mislead the pursuers.

Neighboring Victoria said on Friday that it had decided to close its border with South Australia, but that the rule would not apply to truck drivers or emergency workers.

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, lifted one of the longest locks in the world in late October. The city said Friday it plans to allow incoming international flights to resume from December 7, with an initial limit of 160 passengers a day.

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