Nervous wait for South Australian highway towns visited by COVID-infected truck driver

© Provided by ABC Business Wudinna’s local show was held on the same day an infected truck driver passed through the area. (Emma Pedler: ABC Multiplatform)

Dozens of people who attended a country show at Wudinna on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula visited a roadhouse around the same time as a COVID-infected truck driver.

The town is one of several in the state’s north and west on high alert after the driver made a return trip from New South Wales to Western Australia on the transcontinental highway.

The driver stopped at an Ampol service station at Direk in Adelaide on September 15, then made stops in Port Augusta and Penong, before stopping the following day at Border Village on the WA border.

On September 18, he stopped again at Border Village, Penong, Wudinna and Port Augusta on the way back to NSW.

“[That was a] busy day for Wudinna, with the local show being held,” Wudinna Mayor Eleanor Scholz said.

Cr Scholz said most show attendees would have been from the Eyre Peninsula, but the event may also have drawn people from Adelaide and further afield.

The truck driver visited the town’s Golden Wattle Roadhouse between 7:20am and 8:30am, a busy time on that day.

“From the information that’s been made available to me, it’s suggested that around about 50 to 55 people went through the roadhouse during that time,” Wudinna GP Scott Lewis said.

“That’s a lot for a Saturday morning. Everyone who was coming in to prepare for the show stopped in for their coffee and breakfast.

“Murphy’s Law, isn’t it.”

‘It could go through like wildfire’

Dr Lewis said Wudinna locals had been closely following COVID-19 check-in and mask rules.

“We’ve been wearing masks, we’ve been doing the QR check-in codes very well,” he said.

“The other very reassuring thing is that we already have quite a high vaccine take-up in Wudinna, with over 60 per cent of people having had first doses and around about 45 per cent of people having had both doses.”

Further west at Penong, the driver visited the Caltex service station and an adjoining shower block on both legs of his journey.

On Wednesday, SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said she was “particularly concerned” about that location and it had been listed as a tier-one exposure site.

Penong publican Geoff Denton said it was a small, relatively isolated community that relied heavily on local businesses.

“There are a couple of quite-close Indigenous communities, which is a very big concern for us all,” Mr Denton said.

“We don’t want this getting out into our community. It could go through like wildfire.”

He said there was a high volume of traffic passing through the town on the highway, which links Australia’s east coast with its west.

“Hang in there, stay safe, we can get through this.”

Infected truck drivers a familiar threat

The driver also passed through Port Augusta twice — heading west, he stopped at the Port Augusta On The Run, the same service station visited by a different infected truck driver last month.

On the way back, he stopped at Port Augusta’s BP truck stop.

Dr Lewis said it was a situation that many had anticipated.

“This has been predictable, this has been exactly what I’ve feared and mentioned for some time now — that there’s going to be a truckie coming through the [Wudinna] roadhouse that will put us at risk,” he said.

Check the table below to find all the sites, exposure windows and testing and quarantine directions.

You can find information on testing site hours and the nearest site to you on the SA Health website.

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