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Seven deaths as SA records 3715 new cases

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South Australia has recorded a further seven deaths linked to COVID-19 as case numbers continue to rise – with the Marshall Government moving to mandate reporting of positive rapid antigen test results.

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There were 3715 new cases recorded in the state to midnight, as testing numbers bounced back from the previous day’s drop-off – with 19,398 tests being conducted despite widespread closures of PCR sites due to soaring temperatures.

Yesterday the state had reported just 2921 new cases from 18,433 tests, although SA Health said today that 75 of yesterday’s confirmed cases “have been removed to the total number of cases due to a reconfiguration of the data”.

Premier Steven Marshall said the new cases were comprised of 2978 PCR tests and 737 rapid antigen tests – as he announced reporting of positive RATs would become mandatory in SA, in line with New South Wales and Victoria.

It followed calls by the state Opposition for positive RATs to be compulsorily reported, after Marshall yesterday insisted it would be on a voluntary basis.

In a livestream from his home isolation, he said a video link-up today with his COVID-Ready Committee had overturned that edict, with chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier keen to ensure the caseload data was as accurate as possible.

“We’re keen to track every single one of those results,” Marshall said.

“While we think that 95 per cent of people would do the right thing, getting as many positive results into the system just improves that data [so] we will update that direction and it will be a requirement to report a positive case.”

From Thursday, close contacts of virus cases will have the option of taking a RAT test. PCR testing will still be made available for close contacts who are unable to receive a RAT test or who would prefer a PCR swab.

Those who choose to take a RAT test will be supplied with two tests each to be used on days one and six with the government setting up a single collection point in Adelaide’s southern parklands.

Up to 11 more collection sites will eventually be rolled across Adelaide and in regional centres.

“As of tomorrow we will be making it mandatory in SA for a positive result to be reported, whether they be [via] SA Health or a private [purchased test]… it will be compulsory to report a positive result,” Marshall said.

“You will not be required at this stage to report a negative result.”

A $1000 fine will apply for infractions.

The Premier confirmed the deaths of seven COVID-positive patients, with SA Health later detailing the cases as a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 70s, two women in their 80s, two women in their 90s and a man in his 90s.

Marshall noted however that “not all these deaths have occurred in the past 24 hours”.

“Some go back some days,” he said.

“There isn’t a requirement to report to SA Health within a specific timeframe, so we’re just trying to tighten that up.”

He said he did not have further details about the deaths, noting that given the ages of some of those reported, “many of them would be in aged care facilities where we know there have been a number of patients with COVID”.

“We also don’t know whether they died with COVID or of COVID so I’m hoping to get that information,” he said.

“We express our deepest condolences to all those families who have lost a loved one.”

However, he said there had been a “dramatic reduction in the number of people in hospitals” with COVID, with 190 people currently in hospital with the disease.

That’s down from 211 yesterday, but the number in intensive care has risen by five to 27, six of whom are on a ventilator.

SA saw 17,691 vaccinations administered in the 24 hours to midnight, which Marshall said was evidence “the message is getting through that there’s a massive, massive over-representation of people in ICU who are unvaccinated.”

Health Minister Stephen Wade said today the Omicron outbreak – which has not yet peaked – had exceeded the state’s hospital capacity modelling which focused on the Delta variant.

“In relation to Delta, we were anticipating that the Royal Adelaide Hospital would be the COVID-positive dedicated hospital with about 200 inpatient capacity,” he told ABC Radio.

“But with the updated Omicron plan we’ll be using significantly three of the tertiary hospitals – the RAH, the Lyell McEwin and Flinders Medical Centre – for adults, with a total of 500 beds.

“That’s made possible by our partnership with the private hospitals, we stopped non-urgent surgery a couple of weeks ago, so we’ll be able to draw on their inpatient capacity.”

The health minister said he was now “very confident” the new plan will meet the projected hospital requirements at the peak of the outbreak.

South Australia’s plan to boost COVID ward capacity comes with public hospitals in New South Wales and Victoria under increasing strain.

A total of 42 COVID-19 deaths were recorded across the two jurisdictions today – 21 in each state.

Victoria reported 40,127 new infections overnight and is currently managing just under 210,000 active cases.

The number of people in hospital with the virus in Victoria jumped from 861 to 946, with 112 people in ICU and 31 requiring ventilators.

Almost 4000 hospital workers and 442 Ambulance Victoria staff were unable to work on Monday due to contracting COVID-19 or being close contacts of positive cases.

On Tuesday, Ambulance Victoria issued its second code red alert in a week due to the “extremely high demand for ambulances” in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, in NSW, 2242 people are in hospital with the virus, 175 of them in intensive care.

The state recorded 34,759 cases from 134,411 PCR tests on Tuesday, meaning one in four people tested returned a positive result, although authorities suspect the true number of infections is higher with positive rapid antigen tests not included in the numbers.

In response, the NSW Government today also announced that residents must now report any positive results they receive from a rapid test.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the change to the testing regime is not just about tracking numbers, but is about ensuring NSW Health understands who has underlying conditions and may need more care.

From Wednesday, residents aged 16 and over will have 24 hours to report their positive results to authorities using the ServiceNSW app or website.

“The app is seamless … it will only take a couple of minutes,” Perrottet said.

Residents will need to report each positive result, unless they’ve tested positive on a PCR test within the previous four weeks.

They will also have to provide information about whether they have underlying conditions.

The penalty in NSW for failing to register the result is a $1000 fine, with enforcement to start from January 19.

 – with AAP

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