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2093 new SA cases, two COVID-positive deaths as business support unveiled

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South Australia has recorded another 2093 cases and two COVID-positive aged care residents have died – although their cause of death has not been determined – as the Marshall Government details new financial support for businesses hit by toughened restrictions.

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Speaking a short time ago, Premier Steven Marshall confirmed that two residents in aged care had died and their deaths had been referred to the Coroner.

“There hasn’t been a determination of the cause of death,” Marshall told reporters this afternoon.

“But we do know that both of these people were COVID positive at the time of their passing.”

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier earlier in the day said more than 50 aged care centres in South Australia have been dealing with COVID-19 cases.

Four COVID-positive people have died in South Australia this week, including a child under the age of two and a 94-year-old woman, with both cases under investigation by the Coroner.

The Premier reported another 2093 cases recorded in South Australia overnight, up from 1374 on Thursday and 1472 on Wednesday.

“This is in line with the very steep increases we’re seeing right around the country,” Marshall said.

“This would seem to be linked to activities that occurred on or around Christmas day.

“This is one of the reasons why we had to move very, very quickly on Boxing Day to try to slow the growth of the exponential growth of positive cases.”

There are now 44 COVID patients in hospital, up from 37 on Thursday, with four in intensive care including one person on a ventilator. Marshall said the cases in ICU are in a “clinically stable condition”.

Today’s case numbers were recorded from a record 25,943 tests, with Marshall describing testing clinics as under “enormous pressure”.

Most metropolitan testing sites have been closed today as temperatures soar above 39 degrees in Adelaide, and are not due to open again until 5:30pm.

Marshall also announced that fully vaccinated international travellers to South Australia will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival from midnight tonight.

Unvaccinated international arrivals will still have to do 14 days of quarantine in a medi-hotel.

The Premier also announced interstate arrivals in SA will no longer have to use the EntryCheckSA app or undergo a rapid antigen test on arrival, effective immediately.

“This was discussed this morning at COVID. Ready Committee. It was not a good use of our resources,” Marshall said.

“But we are asking all of those people coming from interstate into South Australia to … monitor their symptoms and take action should they develop.”

Business support package unveiled

The Marshall Government also today unveiled a new financial support package for tourism, hospitality and fitness-related businesses that have been hit by the latest round of COVID restrictions.

Instead of lifting most restrictions on December 28 as expected when the state hit an average 90 per cent vaccination rate, the rapid rise of Omicron cases prompted the State Government on Boxing Day to introduce a one-person per four square metre density cap on hospitality venues and one-person per seven square metres cap on gyms.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said the government would offer grants of up to $22,000 for high turnover businesses in the affected sectors, and grants between $6000 and $8000 for smaller sized firms.

The grants will be paid from next Tuesday in two tranches and will automatically be distributed to businesses already enrolled in the previous grants program.

“There’ll be two level of cash grants: at the maximum level it’ll be $20,000 or $22,000 on total grants payable to tourism, hospitality and gym or fitness-related businesses,” Lucas said.

“At the lower level for lower turnover businesses, $6000 or $8,000 in grants.”

The second tranche of payments will be reserved for businesses which can demonstrate a turnover decrease of 30 per cent or more in the two week period commencing 27 December 2021 compared to the equivalent period in 2019/20.

Lucas said CBD businesses would be eligible for an extra $2000 due to the State Government’s decision to encourage public servants and private sector employees to work from home.

“Clearly, foot traffic and office workers within the CBD have significantly reduced since the imposition of restrictions,” he said.

He also said the State Government would waive liquor licensing fees and grant payroll tax deferrals until April for affected businesses.

“Business Hardship Grants” of up to $8000 will also be available to businesses outside of the hospitality, tourism and fitness sectors if they can demonstrate a turnover reduction of 50 per cent from December 27.

Further, a “Major Events Support Grant” of between $25,000 to $100,000 will be on offer to event organisers who are forced to cancel or postpone an event between December 27 and January 27.

“It doesn’t compensate for losses of potential profits on a particular event that someone might be projecting,” Lucas said.

“It’s there intended to try and cover as much as their cost base might have already incurred.”

The Treasurer said the State Government would be open to extending the cash grants scheme if South Australia’s density restrictions last beyond January.

“The government will obviously keep under notice as to whether or not we provide another round of cash grants later on in the month or early next month,” Lucas said.

Business SA chair Nikki Govan welcomed to the package but asked for the Treasurer to consider scaling the grants based on turnover loss and number of employees.

“What we’ve heard this morning puts money straight into the bank of those previous grant recipients in hospitality, tourism and gyms and also allows all other businesses to apply for funding,” she said.

However, the Treasurer should consider scaling the grants depending on turnover and number of employees.”

Govan said the chamber of commerce would also be calling for the repayment of deferred payroll tax to be spread out across the full year.

SA Unions secretary Dale Beasley said there “must be certainty that the supports will flow to workers”.

“The supports announced today are a good place to start for businesses, but for insecure and casual employees, there are more questions than answers,” he said.

“They need to know what support they will receive if they lose or have lost hours.

“We need to know what requirements there are on businesses to flow payments through to workers.”

Beasley called on the State Government to deliver a “straightforward paid isolation leave scheme” for affected workers, and said rapid antigen tests need to be made “free and widely available” for businesses and employees.

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