Premier Steven Marshall, Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier and Education Minister John Gardner addressed the South Australian public this afternoon with the latest information on the evolving COVID-19 situation in SA.
In the past 24 hours, there has been a decrease in cases to 3,023 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in SA with hospitalisations increasing slightly to 298.
Marshall said that sadly there have been six deaths, with details emerging later this afternoon regarding the sad passing.
There was an increase in ICU patients, with currently 33 in intensive care, and seven on a ventilator. A total of 6,906 cases recovered from COVID-19, with Marshall saying SA is reporting well below their seven-day average.
South Australia continued to see another high testing day, with 14,683 PCR tests administered in the last 24 hours. A further 5,069 RATs were collected in SA yesterday, with testing rates sitting the same as the previous five days recorded in the state.
The extreme weather seen across South Australia has affected testing, with several metropolitan Adelaide sites and the Mount Gambier clinic re-opening at 6pm.
Vaccination rates continued to remain high in SA, with 24,450 people receiving a COVID-19 shot in the last 24 hours. It was the highest vaccination day recorded by SA Health, which shares the vaccination program load with GPs and pharmacies 50/50.
“We share the load with our fabulous GPs and pharmacies in SA, but yesterday was a record vaccination day for SA Health,” said Marshall.
Speaking on Western Australia’s decision to not open its borders to the rest of Australia on February 5, Marshall said he was “shocked” by McGowan’s call, and said that he knows some South Australian families will be “heartbroken” by the decision.
Professor Joshua Ross at the University of Adelaide, who delivers the state COVID-19 modelling, believes that SA is at the peak of the Omicron wave, Marshall stated. The premier continued to say that South Australia still has a bit more work to do to ensure they are on the other side of the wave, including booster shots and today’s announced return to school plan.
The current modelling, which will be delivered to the state next week, predicts no spike when children return to school in the following weeks. While there will be an increase in cases, Marshall said he was pleased it would not be a significant jump.
“We have gotten on top of this very dangerous Omicron wave with the help of South Australian’s,” said Marshall.
Return to work:
South Australian’s will begin to prepare to return to work, with Marshall announcing that as of January 27, the state will slowly encourage people to return to work. Both Spurrier and Marshall stated that the workforce should bring back only 25 per cent of its staff initially.
“Safety must be at the forefront,” said Spurrier.
Offices will work in a 1x4sqm density, so there is enough space to be spread out. The government and SA Health will then monitor the situation following the initial return to work. In open-plan work environments and office settings, both Marshall and Spurrier were clear to state that they wanted to limit the number of people returning to work in the initial stages.
“Even though we have good results in SA at the moment, we cannot become complacent,” said Marshall.
Return to school:
SA Health will provide the rapid antigen tests to teachers to use for surveillance in early learning and childcare settings. The tests will be provided on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Premier stated this decision followed the strong health advice provided to the state, as teachers in these early learning settings have a higher interaction with children. Spurrier further stated that children in early-learning settings are unvaccinated due to their age (under 5) and do not wear masks – meaning the surveillance testing is more appropriate in these settings.
Spurrier continued saying that it is SA’s “best bang for our buck” to use the surveillance testing in early learning settings three times a week, as once a week was not strong enough.
Marshall continued to say that the advice reported that surveillance testing was not appropriate for school-aged children.
“This is in line with the very strong medical advice we have received…rapid antigen testing isn’t suitable for widespread surveillance.”
The Doherty Institute provided clear advice on surveillance rapid testing in schools, with it further confirmed at yesterday’s national cabinet meeting that using surveillance testing in school settings is against health advice.
“There is no way we can say that we will be providing RATs against the very clear and concise health advice just because the union wants it,” says Marshall.
“We have done really well in SA by listening to the experts, we’ve done that since day 1.
“We think we have the balance right.”
Both Spurrier and Education Minister John Gardner drove home the message that using masks in school settings is crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19. If a child is sick, much like if they have the flu or gastro, the advice is for the child to remain at home and not attend school. Gardner said that this has always been encouraged, but it is “tremendously important” now.
With close contacts, only instances where individuals are interacting with no masks, in close contact with each other will be deemed “classroom contacts.” This will follow SA’s definition of a close contact, which is face-to-face, indoors for longer than 15 minutes. Wearing masks in a school setting minimises this risk.
The only circumstance students will be provided with a free RAT when there is one-on-one interaction with a teacher who was COVID-postive and wearing a mask wasn’t possible. Teachers across all year levels who are deemed close contacts will also be provided with seven RATs from the Department of Education.
Close classroom contact teachers will need to provide a negative test each morning and display no symptoms of COVID-19 before returning to the classroom.
Marshall previously announced that to help keep our kids, teachers and state safe, a staged return to school has been recommended by key health and education experts.
The hybrid, staged return to school plan is being implemented to ensure kids miss the fewest face to face learning days as possible, while also ensuring the state keeps on top of the global omicron outbreak.
Under the plan, students in key year levels (Pre-school, Reception, One, Seven, Eight and 12) will head back to face-to-face learning at school on Wednesday, February 2. This is 40 per cent of the student cohort.
Other year levels will begin their school year learning from home from Wednesday 2 February and will be back in the classroom on Monday 14 February. January 31 and February 1 will be additional preparation days for teachers to get briefed and ready for online teaching.
Our most vulnerable students, as well as those children of essential workers, no matter their school grade, will be able to return to school from January 31 for two days of supervision and then learn from February 2.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated at his press conference yesterday that the return to school is at the discretion of each jurisdiction. Queensland and South Australia are the only two states to not return to school on day 1 of Term 1.
South Australia clocked over the crucial 90 per cent vaccination milestone yesterday, almost a month later than the originally predicted date of December 28. The federal government further announced yesterday that the TGA has approved the use of the protein-based vaccine, Novavax.
“The Novavax vaccine will now go to ATAGI for consideration over the course of the next week but it’s a very promising development,” said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“The first of two green lights have been given.”
The federal government hopes that the fourth vaccine added into Australia’s repertoire will help further boost the country’s vaccination rates, which currently sit at 95 per cent.
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