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SA lockdown to lift but mandatory mask rules apply

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UPDATED: Masks will be mandatory in several settings including high schools when South Australia emerges from lockdown at midnight tonight, as the state recorded no new COVID cases today.

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Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier today said masks would be needed for the foreseeable future.

They will be compulsory for all students aged 12 and over in high schools in the classroom, but not outside.

Teachers are being told to wear masks when they can, but to remove them during lessons if needed.

Parents are also being urged not to enter any school ground unless necessary.

As well as high schools, masks will be mandatory in “high-risk” settings including:

Masks are also being highly recommended in workplaces, particularly open-plan offices.

There will be some exemptions for compulsory mask-wearing, including for people with disabilities and health problems and where “clear enunciation” is required such as in call centres.

Spurrier said “the basic rule of thumb is… if you can wear a mask, wear a mask”.

“It’s safer for you, it’s safer for the whole community,” she said.

Premier Steven Marshall said 90 pallets of masks were being delivered to high schools today, with masks “ a new part of the school uniform for secondary students going forward”.

“I think we’re going to be getting used to seeing far more masks around SA in the coming weeks,” Marshall said.

Marshall said he was “absolutely delighted” to announce no new cases today, meaning the state can come out of lockdown as planned from midnight tonight, with mandatory masks part of strict new restrictions.

“I know it will be a huge relief for all South Australians,” he said.

Marshall reiterated his “grateful thanks” to South Australians for complying with the seven-day lockdown.

“We are not going straight back to where we were,” he said.

“We don’t want to have a relapse. We only want to do this once. So we are putting some high-level restrictions in place.”

He said strict restrictions including mandatory masks were necessary to protect South Australians, particularly with the worsening situation in New South Wales.

“We’ve seen those figures coming out of NSW today, another 172 infections, 60 have been out in the community, our thoughts are with the people of NSW,” he said.

Marshall said there were “a large number” of South Australians “stranded” in NSW seeking to get home.

“But the risk of people coming in from NSW is actually higher than from overseas at the moment,” he said.

The new restrictions, to be in place for at least one week, include a return to a one person per four-square-metre density cap at public venues.

Hospitality venues will be able to reopen, but can only serve food and drinks to seated customers both indoors and outdoors.

Schools will reopen, while non-essential businesses, such as hairdressers, retail shops and entertainment venues, will be allowed to trade provided they comply with the one person per four-square-metre density cap.

Household and private gatherings will be capped at 10 people including members of the household, but up to 50 people will be allowed to attend weddings and funerals.

Gyms can also reopen, but they will be limited to a one person per eight-square-metres density cap.

Shisha bars, dancing and singing will remain banned.

The Premier today said that as part of the restrictions, sporting clubs would only be able to train for the next week, with competition resuming the following weekend.

“We know this is disruptive but we also don’t want to go backwards,” he said.

Church services will be allowed this weekend but will need to comply to the new density restrictions, and singing won’t be allowed.

Marshall said 2500 businesses had so far received $3000 cash grants as part of the state government’s newly announced emergency fund.

He said about 14,500 businesses had so far “registered an interest” in the grant.

“This is going to support them through a very difficult time,” he said.

Spurrier said she was “very pleased to not have any bad news overnight on my mobile phone”.

“What a lovely zero case day today,” she said.

There are 19 cases linked to South Australia’s cluster, with two people still in hospital in a stable condition.

Spurrier said about 6000 people were in quarantine, with more than 80 exposure sites across the state.

“Whilst the lockdown is lifted for he whole of South Australia, unfortunately those people in directed quarantine need to remain in the directed quarantine for the full 14 days,” she said.

SA Police Commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said masks were “one of those minor inconveniences that we are going to have to get used to while we are dealing with a global pandemic”.

Reflecting on the decision last week to go into a statewide seven-day lockdown, Stevens said “I’m absolutely certain we did the right thing”.

He gave South Australians a “ten out of ten” for their compliance but said that during the lockdown, police had issued formal warnings to 455 people and a further 256 people had been fined for “breaching the emergency management act directions”.

“These are people who have deliberately gone about avoiding compliance, these are people who have shown no regard to the broader community effort,” he said.

Property Council SA boss Daniel Gannon said the end of the lockdown “couldn’t be greeted with more relief”.

“Lifting these lockdown measures means we can breathe life back into construction, retail, commercial, industrial and office premises, and that people can get back into the office and fire-up the economy again,” he said.

“While this lockdown has been a setback, it is certainly preferred to the drawn-out lockdown we are currently seeing interstate.”

Mask rule details for schools

The Education Department has sent an urgent memo with the following instructions to its schools:

Face masks must be worn by:

The following exemptions from face mask use apply:

SA Education Department chief executive Rick Persse this afternoon told reporters “we expect there will be a little bit of confusion in the early days but what we know is overwhelmingly people do the right thing”.

“We’re really looking for parents to send kids off to school tomorrow with the right message, they’re doing the right thing wearing masks, and through this we’re able to keep our schools open,” he said.

“We’ll have plenty of surgical masks available for staff and students if they forget.”

Asked if there would be penalties for students who refused to comply, Persse said: “No, look, what we’re hoping for is a very high level of compliance here.”

“That’s why we’re trying to get a coalition of both our staff in schools but also parents to send kids off with clear instructions about the importance of wearing masks so that we can keep schools open,” he said.

“The risk is if we have a problem then we’re going back to home learning and that’s not in anyone’s interest.

“If we had a particular problem at a particular site we would work out a bespoke solution to make sure that we had good compliance there.”

Education Minister John Gardner said “we are really eager to get back to face-to-face learning”.

“We know that learning in a classroom is the best way for us to give that education to our children and young people,” he said.

“They’ve done a fantastic job learning at home over the last week but if you’re a junior primary student being taught how to read or a senior secondary student trying to do a chem prac… we are very, very confident that learning from school is the best way to proceed.”

Gardner said it was important for school students and staff to follow the SA Health direction to wear masks.

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