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New SA COVID cases pass 6000

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UPDATED: South Australia’s daily COVID-19 cases have broken through 6000 for the first time, as a growing number of schools move to online learning due to rising infections.

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SA Health today reported 6091 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths – a woman in her 90s and two men in their 80s.

The daily total surpasses yesterday’s record of 5784 cases and comes just days after new modelling released by SA Health showed South Australia’s expected peak had been revised down to about 5500 daily cases.

The number of infectious people in hospital also increased to 210 – up by two from yesterday – including 12 in intensive care and two on a ventilator.

Rising COVID-19 cases have prompted 11 entire schools to move to online learning, with classrooms only remaining open for vulnerable students or children of essential workers.

Those schools include:

Henley High School has alternating year levels doing remote learning each day, while Seaford Secondary School’s disability unit and the special class at Port Lincoln Primary School are also online-only.

Latest data from the department shows that on Tuesday, 567 public school teachers and 386 support officers were on leave due to COVID-related reasons.

The number of students who were absent increased to about 7350, which represents 4.2 per cent of the student population.

Boyer told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the number of closed schools had climbed “a little bit in the last few days”, with more expected to transition to remote learning before the Easter break.

“To give it a little bit of perspective, in the context of the entire public system… it’s not a lot, but I completely accept for those schools, for those staff, students and parents it’s pretty tough out there at the moment,” he said.

“We anticipate that we are in the (COVID-19) peak at the moment and given that we’ve had a number of schools added to that list of school closures in the last few days, I would think that before the school term ends – the final day’s Thursday next week – we are probably likely to have some more schools added to that list.”

Last month, Premier Peter Malinauskas rejected a call from the Australian Education Union to replace the final week of term one with pupil free days to give “fatigued” teachers more time to recoup and plan lessons.

Boyer said despite the rising COVID-19 cases in schools, the government was “not going to send the entire system home early before the upcoming school holidays”, adding the 15 schools that are currently shut had done so at the request of principals.

“Once we get there without, I hope, too many more schools being sent on to remote learning, we get a bit of a circuit breaker across those two weeks and can start the next term in much better shape,” he said.

Malinauskas told reporters this morning that the government was doing “everything we can to provide assistance to schools and the education department to put as many schools online as possible”.

“Naturally, it’s disappointing that some schools have had to go to remote learning – that does cause a degree of inconvenience for parents.”

InDaily contacted the Australian Education Union for comment.

No date to remove hospital visitor limits

The government says it will remove mask-wearing mandates in low-risk indoor public spaces next Thursday, while the easing of quarantine requirements is also being discussed at a national level.

But SA Health has no date in mind to remove strict visitation rules in hospitals, which limit patients to one visitor per day across emergency, maternity, general and critical care units, with exemptions in place for patients who are palliative or critically unwell.

In a statement to InDaily, a SA Health spokesperson said metropolitan local health networks would “revisit their restrictions once the current COVID-19 surge is reducing”, while regional health networks would “continue to adapt locally according to their own situations”.

“Visitor limits are in place across our hospital network to limit the risk of infection of COVID-19 and protect patients, staff and visitors,” the spokesperson said.

“We know the importance of visitors for patients and encourage exceptions to be made for compassionate reasons.

“We thank the community for their understanding while we make every effort to protect patients, staff and visitors from the spread of COVID-19.”

Emergency Management Council minutes stay secret   

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Meanwhile, the government is not releasing the minutes of emergency management council meetings to discuss the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Days after being sworn-in as premier, Malinauskas announced the council, which is a sub-committee of cabinet, would take over as the forum to discuss the easing of restrictions.

In response to questions from InDaily, a government spokesperson said all decisions made in emergency management council meetings had been publicly announced.

The spokesperson said COVID-19 case modelling presented at meetings was also released.

“This is in stark contrast to the former government, which continuously failed to release health modelling and advice, which were pertinent to the implementation of restrictions and close contact rules,” the spokesperson said.

Despite the Marshall government initially refusing to release the minutes of the transition committee – the forum it first used to impose and remove restrictions – the documents were eventually made public.

InDaily asked the Malinauskas government spokesperson if the minutes of emergency management council meetings would also be publicly released but did not receive a response.

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