A pizza bar worker with Covid-19 who lied about their employment activities triggered a lockdown across the entire state of South Australia, authorities were forced to admit Friday.
The state of 1.7 million people would not have gone into the six-day “circuit breaker” had the employee told the truth to a contact-tracing team, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall told reporters at a press conference. He announced the state had decided to lift its six-day lockdown early, based on new information.
South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said officials had since learned that a person who claimed to have been at the Woodville Pizza Bar in the city of Adelaide only briefly to collect a takeaway pizza was actually an employee who had been working regular shifts there.
Authorities had previously concluded that the strain of Covid-19 was highly contagious, assuming the person had caught it despite a very short period of exposure.
South Australia went into lockdown on Wednesday after confirming dozens of locally transmitted cases for the first time since April. The pizza bar had been identified as a Covid-19 hotspot.
“SA health contact tracers found that one of the close contacts linked to the Woodville Pizza Bar deliberately mislead the contact tracing team,” Marshall said. “We now know that they lied.”
As of midnight Saturday, the state’s stay-at-home order will be repealed, and South Australians will be permitted to exercise outdoors and go back to previous restrictions.
The premier and police commissioner defended the decision to go into lockdown and said it was the right one to take based on the information they had at the time. The person who lied will not be fined or penalized, Stevens added.
Marshall added that authorities are now working to identify and locate another group of associates of the employee.
The state had shut down schools, pubs, coffee shops and outdoor sports. Only essential services, like supermarkets, medical facilities and public transport, remained open.
“This has had a massive impact on our community,” Stevens said. “People’s lives have been upended as a result of information that lead us to a course of action that now was not warranted in the circumstances. We’re now taking action to amend that.”