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Density limits doubled for hospitality, QR codes dumped for retail

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South Australia has recorded five more deaths among people with COVID-19, as Premier Steven Marshall announced the easing of restrictions for hospitality and elective surgery.

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All five deaths recorded on Thursday were people over the age of 80, Marshall told reporters.

SA Health later confirmed the deaths included four women and a man.

SA registered a further 1846 positive cases, and a drop in ICU numbers down to 24, including four people on ventilators.

A total of 285 people with COVID-19 are in hospital.

There were 13,036 tests recorded, including 9167 PCR tests and 3859 RAT tests.

Marshall announced eased restrictions on hospitality venues, with indoor density limits to rise from 25 per cent up to 50 per cent at one minute past midnight tonight.

Patrons will still be required to be seated.

Marshall also announced a relaxation of QR code standards.

“We will also narrow the scope of requirement for QR codes for check-ins,” he said. “They will no longer be required in retail. We are still going to require it in hospitality and high-risk settings like hospitals.”

Elective surgery for children will also be allowed from one minute past midnight on Friday.

The COVID ready committee discussed a roadmap for easing restrictions on Thursday morning, based on University of Adelaide modelling for Omicron transmission.

It follows SA relaxing its work from home advice on Thursday, recommending offices bring back up to 25 per cent of their staff.

“Even with these restriction changes we’re still likely to see slight reduction in cases in SA in coming weeks, and that will likely give us further confidence to make further changes,” Marshall said.

He flagged that restrictions may ease on a fortnightly basis, with the fitness sector being looked at “very closely”.

The Premier did not answer directly when asked whether the chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier had supported the easing of restrictions, saying the committee meeting had been respectful with “lots of different views put”.

Spurrier did not attend today’s media conference, with Marshall saying she had not been invited to participate.

He said the committee had decided it would be a risk for the Premier, Spurrier and emergency coordinator Grant Stevens to all attend the same press conferences.

Business SA Chief Executive Martin Haese described the eased restrictions as a good “first step” while calling for additional support for businesses.

“We await further announcements about stimulus and support packages from the State Government, as many business owners have told Business SA that trading conditions over recent months have been the worst since the onset of COVID two years ago,” he said.

Richard McLeod, general manager at popular wedding venue Ayers House, welcomed the eased restrictions.

“We lost $90,000 in business in January through direct cancellations and reduction in numbers, so February is looking much better,” he said. “All of our brides next month will be much happier!”

The eased restrictions come in the wake of reports this morning that Liberal MacKillop MP Nick McBride claimed that the Premier timed the reopening of the borders to ensure case numbers would peak before the state election in March.

McBride told a monthly meeting of Wattle Range Council Marshall wanted “the problems in January… nothing like that in March,” The Border Watch reported on Thursday.

In response to questioning Marshall rejected the claim, suggesting the media had misquoted what McBride said at the meeting.

“I’ve reviewed that transcript [of the Wattle Range Council meeting], and I think that’s what the broadcaster said, certainly not what was confirmed there,” Marshall said.

“To suggest we might have changed the entire national agenda and the Doherty Institute modelling to suit our political interests is quite simply preposterous.”

McBride claimed he meant “they, being the SA Government, SA Health and Police” had to consider a number of influences to ensure that the election could be conducted in March during a pandemic.

According to SA Health currently 94.1% of eligible South Australians aged 12+ have received their first dose of the vaccine and 90.6% have received their second dose.

Boosters have been administered to 55.5% of eligible South Australians and 37.6% of South Australians aged 18+.

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