Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Health Officer Professor Paul Kelly addressed the Australian public today following a national cabinet meeting.
On return to school
All states with the exception of South Australia and Queensland will return to school on term 1 day 1. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the return to school is at the discretion of each jurisdiction.
“Return to schools will be announced individually by each jurisdiction over the next few days and some will make their announcements today,” He said.
“The school operational plans will be consistent with the principles that we agreed on last week.”
The Morrison suggested surveillance testing is not the most effective use of the nations RAT resources however, claims that student monitoring is a matter for state jurisdictions.
“Where surveillance testing is elected to be done by a state and territory, including for early childhood education and childcare centres, … the government and Federal Government will be supporting that 50-50 through the National partnership agreement with those states and territories and that will be done on an individual jurisdiction basis.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the press conference by announcing the reduction in unemployment.
“Unemployment has fallen to 4.2% – down from 5.2% at the time of the last election, down from 5.7% when the Government was first elected. 1.7 million more Australians have secured jobs since, including 1 million more women,” Morrison said.
“… It peaks during the pandemic. There is nothing that pleases me more than young people getting into jobs. That has been one of the highest priorities for our government.”
On supply chain issues
Morrison followed by discussing supply chain pressures. The Prime Minister denied some jurisdictions will be reducing close contact isolation time to five days, down from seven:
“The measures we have taken to alleviate the pressures, particularly around close contact levels and isolation falls are having a positive impact,” he said.
“The distribution centres, the production side of things, and the challenge still remain to ensure that we keep working on the workforce pressures and the logistics and distribution and transport sector.
“We agreed today that we should retain the arrangements for close contacts for essential workers in those workforces we have already defined and have brought no further changes.
“It is all about getting the right balance between getting people back to work and not over stressing the hospital system which is under a lot of stress. We believe we have that balance right.
“The close contact definition that we have for essential workers is doing the job of alleviating the pressure and at the same time, helping us stay within our capacity to continue to support our hospital system.
“At this point, we will also not be changing the isolation period for a positive case of seven days.”
On the national government hijacking state’s RAT supplies
Mr Morrison reiterated his statement made earlier in the week on the issue of rapid antigen tests. He also denies any claims the commonwealth was hijacking supplies from the states and private sector.
“You may be aware of some false claims regarding Commonwealth government requisitioning of rapid antigen tests. I want to stress that these are false claims.”
“These claims are categorically untrue. They have also been made in relation to at least one State Government and will be a matter for the ACCC.
“Supplies of rapid antigen testing kits are not being redirected to the Commonwealth and at no time has the department sought to place itself ahead of other commercial and retail entities.”
On current cases
The Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly took over from the PM to speak on the matter of COVID.
He began by stating Australia saw the deadliest day of the pandemic last week.
“We are seeing a lot of cases, we know that right around Australia, even in WA, there’re some cases now, much less in other states. That time will come,” Kelly said.
“At the moment, 1.15 million cases have been reported since the beginning of the year. We are still in January. That has led, as we know, to a number of hospitalisations.
“We expected to see a lot of cases in this wave,” he continues “we did say and I continue to stand by the fact that this is a much less severe type of the virus than previous waves. When you get such high caseloads, you have, unfortunately, some people that are experiencing severe disease.”
“We are seeing younger people in hospitals because there are a large number of cases in younger people. In terms of intensive care, it remains very rare. Only about 0.1% overall needing to be admitted to ICU.”
Professor Kelly followed this statement by reminding Australians that students are not to attend school if they are a close contact.
“The definition of a close contact is the same for children as it is for adults. That brings into play that same approach, if you are close contact of a case in your house, you should not be coming to school.
“If schools are opening on time and staying open as much as possible, minimising the disruption to face-to-face learning for the reasons I said, the health advice was very clear … We want to keep schools open and want to get them open and part of the surveillance testing is about that, about giving confidence to get kids back to school and teachers back into the classroom as well.”
On the privatisation of RATs
Morrison spoke on the private sale of rapid antigen tests claiming it is the government’s responsibility to ensure all concession card holders have fair access.
“Chemist, pharmacies, the warehouse distributors, all those, they are private companies,” said Morrison.
“They have the distribution channels, they have their arrangements, what we are doing, is ensuring that those who are concession cardholders get equitable access to those of private products and [not] penalised because of the cost of acquiring those products.”
“There is no health requirement for them to go there and buy them, if there was a health requirement for them to do it, they be able to access them a public one to a public testing site.
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