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Australia back on outbreak alert as state reports jump in virus cases

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The Australian state of South Australia reported 14 new coronavirus cases on Monday, a dramatic increase from the previous day, prompting the country’s other states to tighten internal borders and amid concerns of a new virus hot spot.

South Australia ended a months-long streak of no COVID-19 infections on Sunday, reporting three locally-acquired coronavirus cases after a worker from a quarantine hotel infected family members, the authorities said.

By Monday the number in the state had jumped to 17, prompting several other states to impose new border restrictions amid fears that an outbreak in the state that has so far avoided the brunt of the pandemic could spread further afield.

“We just kept getting positives coming off the machine,” South Australia Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“We haven’t got the genomics yet, but I’m absolutely certain it has come from a medi-hotel,” she added, using the term for quarantine hotels.

Since neighbouring Victoria state came out of a lengthy lockdown earlier this month to contain its own virus outbreak, Australia has recorded several days of no new coronavirus infections.

Australia has only recorded near 28,000 coronavirus infections and just over 900 deaths due to strict measures such as international and state border closures, lockdowns, mandatory social distancing and widespread testing and tracing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new South Australian infections were “a reminder, even after a lockdown, even after all this time, the virus hasn’t gone anywhere”.

The states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, home to more than half the Australian population, meanwhile did not announce changes to internal border controls.

Australia meanwhile said it would spend A$1 billion ($726.3 million) underwriting construction of a vaccine manufacturing plant under a deal with a unit of biomedical giant CSL Ltd , guaranteeing supply of flu shots and antivenins.

($1 = 1.3768 Australian dollars) 

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