SA Health has launched an urgent hunt for people possibly infected by a young woman who ignored mild symptoms of coronavirus after returning from overseas but subsequently tested positive.

The single case recorded on Wednesday pushed the state total to 438 cases – 388 have recovered and 46 cases remain active. Four people have died, and four are in hospital, including two men aged 68 and 75 in a critical condition.

The latest case is a woman in her 20s who returned from overseas “several weeks ago” and went into mandatory 14-day isolation.

While she experienced mild symptoms late in the quarantine she did not get checked, only seeking a test, which proved positive, when the symptoms worsened.

The Communicable Diseases Control Branch has swung into action to identify all close contacts and has ordered an undisclosed number into isolation amid concern if any are infected, they may have also passed on the virus.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Michael Cusack said the woman initially had such mild symptoms she did not suspect it was coronavirus.

“The contact tracing team has been working very hard on this, all of the people this person had been in contact with that we have identified have been contacted and are self-quarantining,” he said.

Meanwhile, of almost 700 people who arrived on repatriation flights from India and Indonesia this week, 250 test results received so far are all negative.

Premier Steven Marshall also announced SA Pathology would not be privatised and instead would get a new headquarters, after achieving significant efficiencies and proving itself a world-class weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

media_cameraAn SA Pathology scientists carries coronavirus samples at the laboratory on Frome Rd, Adelaide. Picture: Mark Brake

Test turnaround time has been cut from 24 to 14 hours, negative results are now available via SMS, there are drive-through test clinics and they have done 47,000 tests, including 10,000 in the past week. Prior to the coronavirus crisis they were already on track to achieve a $32 million savings target by 2022 – but this has seen about 105 voluntary separation packages and the workforce cut to 1400.

Mr Marshall praised SA Pathology as “the cornerstone of success against coronavirus” while clinical services director Dr Tom Dodd said the agency was achieving its efficiency targets while ensuring patient care was its top priority.

“During the last year we have improved our service significantly, always working towards a clinical diagnostic service which is world class … clearly over the past few weeks we have had the opportunity to demonstrate we were prepared and able to deliver what SA needed in a most efficient fashion,” he said.

A business case will assess the merit of building a new flagship laboratory. Consolidation of services offers cost savings and will free up space in hospitals and reduce courier trips.

Mr Marshall said SA was unlikely to further relax other restrictions this week.

“National Cabinet meets again on Friday but I don’t envisage any further changes to restrictions in South Australia,” he said.



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