Officials in South Australia have revealed that an apparent lie triggered the harshest coronavirus lockdown in the country, after contact tracers were led to believe that someone was infected by a highly contagious new strain of Covid-19.
The lockdown will now be lifted just two days after it was announced, following news of the false alarm.
The state announced the urgent introduction of lockdown measures for six days on Wednesday after a cluster with 36 infections was detected, including a locally acquired case. The government ordered people to stay at home and shut businesses to combat what was considered a highly contagious outbreak of Covid-19.
South Australia state Premier Steven Marshall told a media conference in Adelaide that one man at a pizza bar tied to the outbreak told contact tracers he had only bought a pizza there, after which he tested positive.
Authorities assumed the man, who has not been named, was infected after only the briefest of exposures, leading them to fear the worst about the strain of virus involved.
Watch: South Australian's 'lie' caused COVID-19 lockdown
But upon further questioning, it turned out the man had actually worked several shifts at the food outlet alongside another worker who tested positive.
"Their (the man's) story didn't add up. We pursued them. We now know that they lied," Marshall told reporters.
"To say I am fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement. The selfish actions of this individual have put our whole state in a very difficult situation."
While the outbreak was still worrying, Marshall said restrictions would be lifted early with a stay-at-home order ending at midnight on Saturday when most businesses would also be allowed to open.
Asked what punishment the individual might face, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said there was "no penalty" for lying to tracers under the current law, though that would likely be reviewed.
"I think it is stating the obvious to say that this person's actions had a devastating impact on our community," said Mr Stevens. "The hardship is not lost on us."
Mr Stevens would not be drawn on the man's likely motivation for misleading contact tracers.
Home to about 1.8 million people, South Australia has recorded 25 cases from the latest cluster, linked to a returned traveller from the UK. The number of new cases in the state was still expected to rise over the next few days as Authorities are still trying to locate thousands of people who may have had "dangerous contact" at the Woodville Pizza Bar.
The country as a whole has been relatively successful in containing the virus with only around 95 cases currently active.
The state of Victoria on Friday reported its 21st day of zero cases, a well-earned reward for a marathon lockdown of the country's second-largest city, Melbourne.
Australia has recorded about 900 deaths and 28,000 infections in total.
Additional reporting by agencies
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