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Aged care outbreaks as SA reports 3829 cases

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Over 100 residential aged care facilities in South Australia are experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, but the number of people recovering from the virus has now surpassed new infections, the Premier has announced, as the state records another 3829 cases.

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Premier Steven Marshall told reporters a short time ago that no one had died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, but 227 people were in hospital, including 26 in intensive care and five on ventilators.

The 3829 new cases reported today is an increase from yesterday’s figure of 3450 cases, while another seven people were hospitalised with the virus overnight.

The “stable” figures have given authorities confidence that South Australia has reached or is close to reaching its caseload peak, with Marshall telling reporters that over the past two days, more people had recovered from COVID-19 than become infected.

On Sunday, 3783 people recovered from COVID-19, compared to the 3450 reported new infections.

“We’re about in equilibrium,” Marshall said.

“We’re very satisfied with the testing rate in South Australia, the positivity remaining stable, the hospitalisations, ICU and those on ventilators stable.

“(It’s) nothing like three or four weeks ago when we were seeing a doubling every couple of days.

“It’s still putting our health resources under enormous stress, so we do want to come out the other side, but I’m pretty confident that we’re at that peak at the moment.”

It comes as chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier reviews workforce restrictions for the aged care sector as the industry grapples with 102 outbreaks across over 150 sites.

The federal government defines an outbreak as one resident or two staff members testing positive for COVID-19.

All up, there are 1192 positive COVID-19 cases in aged care homes, of which 572 are staff members, 615 are residents and five are visitors.

“This is impacting about two per cent of (all South Australian residential aged care) staff and four per cent of residents in South Australia and this is at the lower end of the scale on a national basis,” Marshall said.

“We’re very confident that the residential aged care facility (sector) is getting on top of this and we’ll provide greater flexibility with regards to visitation going forward.”

Marshall said of 102 outbreaks in aged care facilities, 11 required “some significant SA Health support”, adding that aged care facilities fell under the purview of the federal government.

He said the state’s COVID Ready committee this morning agreed to allow chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier to revise workforce restrictions for residential aged care facilities, including potentially allowing staff members who are close contacts to go back to work.

“That (review) will be completed in the coming days and I’m sure that what that will do is just provide that workforce relief in a careful way that will start to ease some of those concerns in our aged care sector.

“Obviously, it’s an important sector for us, it’s a vulnerable sector and we want to be doing everything we can to support them.”

Meanwhile, state emergency coordinator and SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens revealed new rapid antigen test collections sites would open in Port Augusta and Murray Bridge tomorrow.

He said on Thursday, the government planned to open sites in the Port Adelaide Enfield and Mount Gambier council areas, while on Saturday January 22, sites would open in the Charles Sturt and Naracoorte LGAs.

A testing site will open in Onkaparinga on January 24 and planning is underway to open additional sites in Playford, Salisbury, Mount Barker and Port Lincoln.

“There is some thinking being put into place now about pop-up capability as well, so if we have a particular need in certain locations, either metropolitan or regional areas, we can establish a quick delivery of those rapid antigen tests for those locations,” Stevens said.

Marshall said a shipment of 426,000 rapid antigen tests would arrive in South Australia today, with 250,000 tests expected to arrive every day between now and the end of January.

“We’re going to need them for our own purposes and potentially also for our schools when we get a final position on that,” he said.

“We’ve already well past 73,000 free rapid antigen tests delivered from the park lands (distribution site).”

Around 138,000 people have received a vaccination in the past week.

Latest data shows 89.7 per cent of South Australians aged over 12 are fully-vaccinated, while 93.1 per cent have received one vaccine dose.

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