Premier Steven Marshall and Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier addressed the South Australian public this afternoon with the latest information on the evolving COVID-19 situation in SA.
In the past 24 hours, 5,679 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in SA with an increase of hospitalisations to 246. There was a decrease in ICU patients, with currently 20 in the ICU, eight of who are on a ventilator. Marshall said there was still a massive overrepresentation of unvaccinated individuals in the ICU and hospitals.
“It is very clear that those who are vaccinated…are less likely to end up in hospital and ICU,” said Marshall.
“These statistics…are not subject to dispute.”
Speaking on the surge in cases in the past day, Marshall said that the data must be interpreted with caution, as there was a delay in cases as a result of clinics working later due to hot weather.
Unfortunately, six deaths were recorded in SA in the past 24 hours, with further details regarding the sad passing to be reported later today.
A total of 24,796 COVID-19 tests were taken yesterday, a 20 per cent increase in testing from the previous two days as a result of the rapid antigen test program launching. A total 1,747 positive cases came from the RATs, which also meant that people got their results earlier and saw the state’s statistics rise.
Marshall said that South Australia is “at the top of the tree in terms of per capita testing across Australia.”
SA Pathology processed nearly 19,000 tests in a single day – the second-highest on record.
Restrictions are not expected to ease in the following weeks, as SA is expected to hit their peak in the following days. When questioned about the end of restrictions, Marshall stated: “I can’t promise there won’t be a further wave, but I can say SA is one of the safest places to be.”
When asked if SA has avoided a catastrophe, Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier replied “absolutely.”
“We need [the restrictions] in place, please be patient.”
Rapid Antigen Test progam:
Yesterday the Rapid Antigen Test program for close contacts launched. It saw 4,310 vehicles pass through the Southern parklands site. The maximum capacity for the site is 8,000 cars.
A total of 20,666 tests were dispensed yesterday (two tests per pack), with over 10,000 South Australian close contacts using the program.
Marshall said he believes the significant elevation in testing is a result of the RATs program. It is mandatory for COVID-positive individuals to report their results on the SA Health site identified by a RAT – whether you are a close contact or not. This data is also fed into South Australia’s data to inform the current peak predictions and plan to keep SA citizens safe.
The new RAT collection point in the Berri/Barmera LGA will open Sunday this week with the Murray Bridge site opening Tuesday.
South Australia was headed for a peak of 30,000-40,000 daily cases by the third week of January if it wasn’t for the quick implementation of restrictions on Boxing Day.
Updated Omicron modelling undertaken by Professor Joshua Ross at the University of Adelaide shows that, without an increase in public health measures, South Australia would have seen tens of thousands more cases in January.
Marshall applauded the South Australian public for doing the right thing when the restrictions were announced, which will now see daily cases likely peak at between 6,000 and 10,000, vastly lower than the 30,000-40,000 predicted if the quick action wasn’t taken early.
“The Boxing Day restrictions, along with the willingness from South Australians to roll up and get a booster shot has meant the State was able to reduce the transmission potential of the Omicron variant by 45% – 63%,” said Marshall.
“In fact, in his modelling notes, Joshua Ross states: ‘one thing that is clear is that the Activity Restrictions have made our situation much better than it would have otherwise been’.”
As of January 13, 93.2% of eligible South Australians aged 12+ have received their first dose of the vaccine, 89.4% have received their second dose and there were 16,577 booster shots given yesterday bringing the total booster shots to 295,112.
Back to School:
Classes will resume on February 2, with some being taught online and some face-to-face for other students. The hybrid modelling for the start of school will see students in reception, Year 1, Year 7, Year 8 and Year 12 return to face-to-face learning.
Currently, all students are expected to return to school on February 14, however, this date may be subject to change.
Between 20,000 to 30,000 COVID-19 cases were predicted to be reported in SA throughout February if the state did not decide to stagger the start of Term 1 for schools. Going back to school gives an 8 per cent increase with transmission potential.
Speaking at the press conference, Honourable John Gardner, South Australian Minister for Education, said “face to face education as we know is the best way to deliver education, and our students have an entitlement to this education,” but the state wants to make sure they do this as safely as possible.
“That first day of school is a very special day…we will be putting in appropriate measures for parents to support their little ones on that special day.”
Masks will also be mandatory for teachers in primary and secondary schools and strongly recommended for high school students.
In the first three weeks of schooling, all high risk activities will be postponed, which includes any camps, sports, excursions, choirs and school assemblies. Students who choose to wear masks will be able to remove their masks for playtime at recess.
Professor Spurrier further encouraged little ones from year 3 to also wear masks. Teachers will be considered close contact critical workers, allowing them to return to work during the mandatory seven day isolation period.
If a child in a class tests COVID-positive, the child won’t go to school. Other children in the class and their families will be notified about the case, with students encouraged to continue attending school, however, Spurrier said she “understood” if families didn’t want them to. For those who want their child to remain home, students can access online classes.
Teachers and children who are close contacts with another student must isolate after working. Individuals who are close contacts from the wider community must remain at home and not at school during the seven day period.
Teachers who test positive to COVID-19 will not have to teach and will remain home. Students in that class will use online school resources supplied by the government until the teacher returns to class.
Speaking on the topic, Premier Marshall stated: “I don’t like doing this. I would much rather prefer to have every student return on the 31st, but the evidence is very compelling, we can reduce cases by 10,000’s through February.”
“This was unavoidable, I want to thank our teachers, principals and student support staff
“I believe our students in South Australia have had the best education possible during a global pandemic.”
Advice to parents from schools is expected to be delivered in the following days regarding face masks and tracing.
After journalists questioned the ambulance capacity following a significant number of calls to Triple 000 last night, Marshall said that the committee was also concerned
The COVID hotline cut out last night, which is why Marshall believed that there was a rise in Triple 0 calls – most of which Marshall said were category 2 and respiratory-related. Marshall gave a salient reminder that Triple 0 is for emergencies only and the hotline is extending trading hours to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You may not always receive a call, SMS or email from SA Health.
You must follow the relevant health advice even if you have not been contacted.
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, please seek testing as soon as possible.
For more information on health advice and requirements for households, visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/COVIDcontacttracing.
Find your nearest testing site at www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/COVIDtesting