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Two deaths as SA hits new case record amid Omicron surge

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Two COVID-positive people have died in South Australia in the past 48 hours, Premier Steven Marshall has revealed, as case numbers spiked to a new record and it was revealed up to 93 per cent of people hospitalised are carrying the Omicron variant.

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There were 3707 new COVID cases in the state announced today, up from 3070 yesterday.

Yesterday’s caseload came from 19,163 PCR tests  in the preceding 24 hours, while today’s new record came from 20,489 tests conducted to midnight.

Marshall said while there had been an “uptick”, it was “pleasing to see we’re still in the 3000-range”, arguing SA has the “lowest positivity rate” of states currently experiencing surging cases.

“SA seems to not be escalating at the same range that some other states are at the moment,” he said.

However, he revealed the “sad news” that a further two patients had died with the disease, both with underlying health issues.

One was a person aged in their 90s.

The other is 65-year-old Angle Park woman Christine Eross, whose family spoke to 7 News last night.

They said she had tested positive on Tuesday and died in hospital after being put on oxygen.

She had suffered seven strokes in less than 10 years, her family said, with her son Darien telling the network: “She was tough as nails [but] it went from ‘she’s on oxygen, she’s doing good’[to] ‘she might be fine’ to ‘she’s gone’.”

Marshall also said there had been a “slight uptick” in the number of people in hospital, up to 144 from 123, with 16 people in intensive care – up from 12.

One person remains on a ventilator.

There are now four people in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital – a day after the Premier enthused that the facility’s COVID ward was empty.

However, he said “no children have been in ICU in SA at all so far” and “we’re not seeing that trajectory we were seeing a week, 10 days ago”.

“We also have conducted some further genome testing of those people who are in hospital at the moment [and] it’s now showing 92-93 per cent of all those people in our hospitals are Omicron,” Marshall said.

“So this is really very much becoming the dominant variant here in SA – like it is around the country, like it is around the entire world.”

The number of SA Health workers to test positive is now 356, compared to yesterday 308 – with many continuing to work from home, as Marshall reiterated calls for other sectors to work from home where possible.

With 19,432 vaccinations administered yesterday – the third day in a row above 19,000 – the Government today announced the opening of a new vaccination facility at the state’s Netball hub at Mile End, from January 12.

Marshall said while the facility would focus on adult booster jabs, offering Moderna, he was hopeful it would free up capacity elsewhere for the rollout of vaccines for 5 to 11 year olds from Monday.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier, making her first media appearance in several days, said there had been outbreaks of concerns in the regional SA centres of Naracoorte and Robe.

The former was at an abattoir, with over 100 cases already declared.

In Robe, the Caledonian Inn has been declared a close contact exposure site for the second time.

State MP for Mackillop, Nick McBride, said he believed the abattoir, run by Teys, was “the canary in the coalmine” for a broader outbreak in the area, after New Year’s revellers in Robe had returned to their respective south-east communities.

I’m here to deal with a pandemic – not to sort of mess around

Spurrier was asked about her recent absences from media briefings, including whether she had threatened to resign as chief public health officer after her calls to close the state’s borders were unheeded in late November and close contact definitions were amended recently – a question to which she responded unequivocally.

“Why would I threaten to resign from this sort of job,” she replied.

“I’m here to deal with a pandemic – not to sort of mess around.

“I’ll say absolutely ‘no’ to that sort of question.”

She said she remained “happy” with the state’s position, saying: “It might not seem it when you see the numbers, but compared to what we see in some other states, I’m very happy with where we’re tracking.”

Authorities today committed to clarify the situation around the resumption of school by the end of next week, with Spurrier conceding: “It is a tricky question.”

She said her preference was for face-to-face learning but conceded: “I think we could say quite clearly there’s going to be disruption.”

It comes as Omicron continues to surge across the country, with New South Wales facing the prospect of new restrictions after another 38,625 cases and 11 deaths were reported overnight.

Premier Dominic Perrottet has today suspended elective surgeries and halted singing and dancing in pubs to relieve pressure on the hospital system.

Victoria has recorded another 21,728 new cases and six deaths, with hospitalisations in the state increasing further to 644 people.

The state has from today returned to a one person per two square metre density limit on hospitality in a bid to curb the current wave of infections.

Meanwhile, Queensland has recorded 10,953 new cases with 327 patients in hospital and is considering delaying the return of children to primary school.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the primary school year would be delayed if the current Omicron wave is peaking when children are due to resume classes again in three weeks.

Elsewhere, Tasmania has posted a record 1489 cases, with three people in hospital and 79 people being treated in community care clinics.

Infections in the ACT also surpassed 1000 for the first time in pandemic, with another 1246 cases reported today and 24 people in hospital.

-with AAP

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