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Five more COVID deaths in SA but cases drop

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Five more people with COVID-19 have died in the past 24 hours but Premier Steven Marshall says the state yesterday recorded the lowest number of new cases so far this year.

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Marshall told reporters a short time ago that he didn’t know the ages or genders of those who have died over the past 24 hours, with SA Health to provide details later this afternoon.

South Australia today reported 1147 new cases – a reduction from yesterday’s 1234 reported cases.

“Yesterday was our lowest number of positive cases for this entire year,” Marshall said.

“This is well below what the numbers were a week, two weeks ago, it’s well below our seven-day average, which now sits at 1372.

“Importantly yesterday, there was 1727 people who recovered – so every single day we see more people who are recovering than becoming COVID-positive”.

The number of people infected with COVID-19 in hospital increased to 224 people – up from 218 reported yesterday – including 16 people in ICU and five people requiring a ventilator.

It comes after SA Health chief executive Chris McGowan told a parliamentary committee this morning that authorities don’t really know how many South Australians have COVID and believe that many cases are going unreported.

Marshall said authorities this morning discussed the COVID-19 outbreaks across the state’s Aboriginal communities.

He said the number of reported outbreaks had “diminished” and the number of new positive cases over the past few days had reduced by “around 100”.

But he said 24 Aboriginal South Australians were currently in hospital with COVID-19, including one in ICU.

“This is still a vulnerable community and it’s one that we need to focus on,” Marshall said.

“The new dedicated facilities in metropolitan Adelaide and also Ceduna and Port Augusta, I think, are really making a real improvement in the way we can do that isolation, quarantine and ultimately return to country.”

The Premier said the State Government would receive updated modelling later this week which would be used to inform future restrictions changes.

The Government is planning to ease restrictions gradually over two-week increments, with Marshall saying this morning that the state “is safe to go back to your hospitality venue”.

The Adelaide City Council and State Government this morning launched a new voucher scheme to support city hospitality businesses in light of the gradual easing of restrictions.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor said the vouchers could be used to pay for breakfast, lunch and dinner at city venues which register to participate.

She said the council and government would each contribute $250,000 towards the scheme, called “Adelaide Unleashed”.

A new round of the State Government’s “Great State Vouchers” also opens on Friday, offering accommodation discounts of up to $100 for selected venues.

It comes after SA Health yesterday released updated modelling from the University of Adelaide, which showed lifting hospitality restrictions at the end of last month led to an estimated transmission rate increase of less than 13 per cent.

The document states that a “Phase 2” lift of activity restrictions next Tuesday would lead to a 10 per cent increase in transmission potential, as would a “Phase 3” lifting of activity restrictions on February 29.

A “Phase 4” lifting of restrictions on March 15 would lead to a 13 per cent increase in transmission potential.

The modellers noted that waning booster immunity was likely to become a problem by mid-Autumn.

Marshall said he would ask National Cabinet to discuss booster immunity at a meeting scheduled for later this week.

“We do know that there is waning immunity every week that you go past having your vaccination, (but) we don’t know what that is like with regards to Omicron,” he said.

“We do know that some companies including Pfizer are developing a specific Omicron vaccine which should be available towards the end of this month.

“While no decision has been made, I think it’s reasonable to think that there will be a requirement for a further booster at some point down the track, but we really need to see how we progress with this disease.”

Meanwhile, elective surgery restrictions have relaxed today, with day surgery in the private sector and country hospital surgery now allowed.

From next week, 75 per cent of private sector surgeries and all public sector day surgery will be allowed.

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