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COVID-positive child dies, 1374 new SA cases

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A COVID-positive child under the age of two has died in South Australia – although the cause of death hasn’t been determined – as the state records another 1374 cases, down slightly from yesterday.

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Premier Steven Marshall said this afternoon that a child under the age of two had died after contracting COVID-19, although it is not yet known if the virus was the cause of death and the case was being referred to the Coroner.

“It’s a very sad set of circumstances, we still don’t know what the cause of death was,” Marshall said.

“Obviously the family is in huge distress and my condolences to the family at this very, very tough time.”

It is the sixth death of a person to test positive to COVID-19 in South Australia, after a 94-year-old woman died earlier this week.

Marshall reported the state had recorded another 1374 COVID-19 cases overnight from 23,420 PCR tests.

The case numbers are slightly down from the 1472 recorded on Wednesday although higher than the 995 recorded on Tuesday and 842 on Monday.

The state’s hospitalisations statistics remain unchanged, according to the Premier, with 37 people currently hospitalised with the virus, four people in intensive care and one man in his 30s on a ventilator.

There are 7561 active cases in South Australia, according to SA Health, and more than 8000 since the borders opened on November 23.

SA Health said today’s new cases consist of 99 children, 81 teenagers, 571 women aged between 18 and 95 and 623 men between 18 and 98.

Of the new cases, 825 are fully vaccinated, 179 are unvaccinated while the vaccination status of a further 370 is unknown to SA Health.

Meanwhile, Marshall announced that South Australia will from midnight narrow the definition of close contacts to only include household members of confirmed positive cases.

“What we agreed was that we would, of course, very significantly narrow the definition of a close contact, this will essentially be people who are household or intimate contacts with a positive case,” he said.

New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT have also agreed to adopt the new definition from Friday.

Tasmania will join from January 1 and the Northern Territory and Western Australia will make announcements in the coming days.

Marshall said some states may “flex up the definition of close contact” in certain settings, including residential aged care facilities, where necessary.

“But by and large, we’re now significantly narrowing this down as of midnight tonight to those people who are household contacts, intimate partners or those people in those exceptional circumstances,” he said.

The Premier also announced that vaccinated COVID-positive patients will now only have to quarantine for 10 days. Other states agreed to shorten this quarantine period to seven days.

“If you don’t have any symptoms, and you’ve done your 10 days with the disease, you are then right to go back about your business obviously continuing to monitor any symptoms,” Marshall said.

Symptomatic close contacts will still need to take a PCR test. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the changes reflected “a practical way forward” and recognised the different situations different states faced.

“What this does is significantly changes those who need to be going and (lining up) in testing queues,” Morrison told reporters today.

State testing centres will also hand out rapid antigen tests over the coming weeks for people who fulfil the new testing requirements.

“If you turn up at those testing centres for (those) reasons I have set you will either get a rapid antigen test or a PCR test,” Morrison said.

Tests will not be provided for free across the board, the prime minister says.

“Rapid antigen tests will be provided publicly at those testing centres for those who require one according to the rules,” he said.

“For all other casual uses, that is what the private market is for.”

‘Significant tightening’ of testing requirements coming

SA authorities will soon move to limit the number of people coming forward for PCR tests and transition to greater usage of rapid antigen tests in a bid to ease long waiting times.

Despite numerous moves to ease pressure on testing sites, queues of up to nine hours continue to be reported at Adelaide’s main testing stations.

SA Health said that as of 10am, the Victoria Park drive through clinic had a wait time of eight to nine hours, while the Royal Adelaide Hospital was experiencing queues of five hours.

Hampstead (four to five hours), Aldinga (three to four hours) and the Adelaide Airport (three to four hours) reported similarly long wait times.

“We all agreed that we will be making a transition to more people using the rapid antigen test and getting out of the lineups for a PCR test,” Marshall said.

“[SA Pathology director] Professor Tom Dodd told us very recently that about two thirds of all of those people lining up for PCR tests in South Australia are asymptomatic.

“These people really quite frankly should not be in the line unless they were close contacts of a positive case.

“Over the next 24-48 hours, we’ll be looking at putting new directions in place to make it very clear to every single person in South Australia that we really want to test people that have symptoms or are close contacts of those people that have symptoms.

“We will be significantly tightening up on that.”

The State Government was criticised last week for only legalising the sale of rapid antigen tests in South Australia on December 23, leaving pharmacies scrambling for limited stock during a period of high demand at Christmas.

Marshall also reiterated that it was still “too early to say” whether South Australian schools would reopen or move to remote learning when term one starts on January 31.

An Education Department spokesperson told InDaily this afternoon it was working through a “range of scenarios” for how schools will operate amid the Omicron surge, and would provide more information “as soon as possible”.

“Our clear preference is for face to face schooling, however we are prepared for periods of online learning if required, as we demonstrated last year,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Western Australia has escalated its tight border controls with a ban on entry for South Australians and Queenslanders.

From Friday at 6pm, Queensland and SA will be deemed extreme risk states, with travellers not permitted into WA except in extraordinary circumstances.

Premier Mark McGowan said the move was due to significant case spikes in both jurisdictions over this week.

“The arrival of the Omicron variant in Australia has seen cases surge in both Queensland and South Australia, and unfortunately we expect this trend to continue,” he said on Thursday.

Travellers from the two states approved for entry into WA under their previous classification of high risk have been warned to move quickly.

Under the extreme risk classification, travel exemptions are only approved for commonwealth and state officials, members of parliament, diplomats, and people who perform specialist roles.

-With AAP

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