It was the lie that launched a lockdown — and it hinged on a pizza joint.
After dozens of coronavirus cases emerged this week in the state of South Australia, the government quickly clamped down, issuing onerous stay-at-home orders. Masks were mandatory. Restaurants, cafes, pubs and retails stores were closed, along with schools.
But officials abruptly reversed course two days later, saying on Friday that the infected individual had “deliberately misled” a contact-tracing team in the city of Adelaide. It all came down to his relationship with a pizza shop.
It turned out that the person at the Woodville Pizza Bar wasn’t a customer, as he had told contact tracers, but a part-time employee and a close contact of another coronavirus patient who also worked at the restaurant. That mattered because health officials initially feared that the newly infected man had contracted the virus from only a brief exposure.
South Australia’s top official, Steven Marshall, told reporters on Friday that given the new information, the state’s lockdown would end three days earlier than planned.
“To say that I am fuming about the actions of this individual is an absolute understatement,” he said.
Schools, restaurants and gyms were set to reopen, but new rules include a cap of 50 people at funerals and a ban on dancing at weddings. Mr. Marshall said that contact tracers still needed “breathing space” to continue investigating the source of the outbreak, the state’s most severe in months.
After a woman tested positive for the coronavirus at an Adelaide hospital, health officials found that she had contracted it from her daughter, a cleaner at a downtown hotel being used to quarantine Australians returning from abroad, the country’s national broadcaster reported 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 tracers said he had bought takeout from the restaurant, declining to tell them that he was a close contact of one of the infected guards.
“That clearly changes the circumstances, and had this person been truthful to the contact-tracing teams, we would not have gone into a six-day lockdown,” Grant Stevens, South Australia’s police commissioner, told reporters on Friday.