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Marshall says SA 'not out of the woods' as cases ease

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The number of new COVID cases in South Australia eased slightly today, as Premier Steven Marshall outlined a “huge logistical exercise” to coordinate the rollout of rapid antigen tests for close contacts of confirmed cases.

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SA recorded 3070 new cases on Thursday – down from a record 3493 the day before, with the number of hospitalisations also “levelling out” to 123, down by two.

It comes after 19,163 people received a PCR test yesterday in SA – a 9.17 per cent percent decrease on the previous 24 hours.

“We still unfortunately have 12 people in ICU and one person on a ventilator,” Marshall said, with both figures unchanged from the day before.

“We’re not out of the woods… we haven’t hit the peak [and] we are going to see more cases,” he said.

But he said there were “green shoots” that suggested restrictions imposed in late December had “helped us to avoid a disaster like we’re seeing in plenty of other places around the country and the world”.

Marshall said that “pleasingly” there were no cases in intensive care at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, which he said suggested that children were not being more significantly affected by the spiralling Omicron strain.

“We were concerned about a week ago with the tragic death of a child under the age of two,” he said, saying the case had prompted authorities to closely monitor the broader impact on young cases and “to date not a single child has gone into ICU”.

However, he said “we have had a further slight uptick” in the number of SA Health staff laid low by COVID, with 308 forced off the job after returning positive tests.

Marshall was part of yesterday’s national cabinet meeting that confirmed people who test positive on a rapid antigen test now don’t have to get their results confirmed with a PCR test, in the hope of easing pressure on testing sites experiencing surges in demand due to widespread rapid test shortages.

Marshall said today SA Health and SA Pathology were preparing to roll out a “standalone scheme” locally, with a “RAT positive” to be a suitable alternative to getting the PCR positive.

He said close contacts would “need to identify or be identified by SA Health”, at which point they would receive two test kits – one for day one and one for day six.

“If they get a positive on day one, they will be deemed covid positive and there will be no need for a PCR test,” he said, adding that every state and territory leader attending yesterday’s meeting “agreed this was the best use of our finite resources”.

“It’s a huge logistical exercise, it’s quite a change from where we were – but this is the appropriate response for where we are at this point of the disease,” he said.

“You’ll need to identify yourself, get [a] QR code and feed the data into our system… we want the very best data possible so we can continue to closely monitor this disease in SA.”

It comes amid escalating cases Australia-wide, with Queensland recording 10,332 new COVID-19 cases and one death in the state’s biggest daily surge in infections.

Twelve people are in intensive care in that state, including two on ventilators, while 284 patients are in hospital. The surge in new cases, which follows the 6871 reported on Wednesday, comes as testing capacity is being pushed to the brink and authorities warn many undetected infections are likely to be circulating in the Sunshine state.

NSW could suspend elective surgery and draft in private hospitals to help relieve pressure on the hospital system, after the state recorded another 34,994 COVID-19 cases, while Victoria reported 21,997 new cases on Thursday – one third of the 64,000 results recorded.

– additional reporting by AAP

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