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Five new COVID deaths but lowest number of daily cases this year


Another five South Australians with COVID have died, the Premier has announced, but the state has recorded the lowest number of daily new cases so far this year.

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Premier Steven Marshall told reporters a short time ago the five deaths included two in the past 24 hours and another three from a previous period that the State Government had just been notified about.

SA Health issued a statement a short time ago with further details on the deaths.

“Sadly, SA Health can confirm a woman in her 70s, a woman over the age of 100, a man in his 80s and two men in their 90s, who tested positive for COVID-19, have passed away,” the statement said.

Marshall said there were 1869 new COVID cases, “the lowest number we have had this year”, which authorities were “delighted” about.

The positive cases came from 1278 positive PCR tests and 591 positive rapid antigen tests.

A total of 9733 PCR tests were conducted yesterday and 5210 rapid antigen tests.

Marshall said 3643 patients were yesterday “cleared” of COVID, “so a net reduction of 1774 people living with COVID in our community”.

“We are really tracking extraordinarily well in South Australia,” he said.

The Premier said there had also been a reduction in hospital admissions to 287 patients in hospital, including 32 in intensive care and five on a ventilator.

He said 20 per cent of patients in hospital were admitted “with” COVID, rather than because of the virus.

It comes as the State Government today announced a new telephone monitoring service to call vulnerable South Australians recovering at home with COVID-19 twice a day.

Marshall said there were currently about 30,000 South Australians living with COVID, most of whom were at home, not hospital.

The Government announced an extra $2.3 million of funding to Wellbeing SA to help run the program, with a call centre operating out of the Royal District Nursing Service headquarters at Keswick.

Marshall said the COVID Home Telephone Monitoring Program from Wellbeing SA would support the work of the COVID Response Care Team (CRCT) in monitoring “more vulnerable members of the community” with COVID-19.

“As more South Australians become infected with COVID the research shows at least 95% of them can complete their 10 days of isolation safely at home,” he said.

“This new phone monitoring program will assist those people who require a bit more support at home while doing the right thing and isolating to protect the health of other South Australians.

“The program is not only monitoring a person’s overall health and wellbeing but also their ability to access food, medication, and other vital services, providing advice and assistance where necessary.”

Marshall said there was “virtually no lineup” at PCR testing stations across SA, urging people to turn up if they have symptoms or are close contacts.

He said SA authorities were now in possession of 1.1 million rapid antigen tests and the State Government had just purchased 22 million extra tests, expected to arrive in February.

Marshall also urged people to get vaccinated if they were due, saying many appointments were now “going to waste”.

He said the Wayville vaccination clinic for example had 4000 appointments available tomorrow, but only 1000 had been booked.

He also said South Australia now sits in second place in the nation, behind Tasmania, in terms of the percentage of 5-11 year olds who have now had their first shot.

The Premier said 498 SA Health staff were currently COVID-positive or furloughed as close contacts.

Union executives weigh up teacher strike

It comes as the Australian Education Union SA branch executive considers whether to press ahead with a strike next Wednesday, the first day of term one, over the State Government’s back-to-school plans.

In a ballot of AEU members which closed yesterday, almost two-thirds voted in favour of the full-day stop-work action, if concerns – including a lack of surveillance rapid antigen testing for teachers and inadequate classroom ventilation – aren’t adequately addressed.

The executive team held a meeting late this morning to discuss the ballot results and progress made over the last week in meetings with Education Department officials.

The union is expected to give an update after a meeting this afternoon with chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier.

Marshall said he hoped the meeting would be “successful” and believed the government was “on strong ground”.

“We don’t support the strike and we are gong to be doing everything we can to avert this strike,” he said.

Under the State Government’s hybrid back-to-school model, students in preschool and kindergarten, reception and years 1, 7, 8 and 12 will be allowed to return to the classroom from next Wednesday, February 2.

Students in the remaining year levels will learn online from home for nearly two weeks until February 14, when all year levels are expected to return to classrooms for face-to-face schooling.

The Education Department has said principals will be allowed to make decisions at a local level about whether to allow year 2 students in composite classes with year 1 students to also return to the classroom from February 2, as well as year 11 students studying year 12 subjects.

Mental health services closed to redirect staff

A southern mental health service will temporarily shut down from later this week to redeploy staff to “essential areas” impacted by the pandemic.

In a statement, a Southern Adelaide Local Health Network spokesperson said the Southern Intermediate Care Centre’s (SICC) services, adjacent to Noarlunga Hospital, will be “temporarily suspended” from this Friday, January 28, “as part of our response to COVID-19 and in line with other local health networks”.

“This enables staff from the SICC to be redeployed to cover essential areas impacted by sick leave or furloughed staff,” the spokesperson said.

“The SICC primarily provides step-down care to patients completing an inpatient admission and this care will continue to be provided to those patients in the community throughout the duration of the temporary suspension.”

It follows the closure earlier this month of the Queenstown Intermediate Care Centre (ICC), in Queenstown in the western suburbs.

In a statement earlier this month, the Central Adelaide Local Health Network said the “temporary cessation of services within the Queenstown Intermediate Care Centre (ICC) will support the continued CALHN Mental Health COVID -19 response”.

“This will allow for the mobilisation of ICC staff to assist in the delivery of patient care within our services, which have experienced an increase in demand due to COVID-19,” a spokesperson said.

“Supported discharge plans were already in place for patients who were in the ICC in line with the existing model, and in some instances increased clinical community-based mental health support will be delivered for some consumers with daily support provided.

“There will be no change in hours of work or duties for in-scope staff, and this arrangement will be regularly reviewed in alignment with our COVID-19 response requirements.”

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