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SA to scrap close contact quarantine from next Saturday

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South Australia will scrap seven-day isolation requirements for COVID-19 close contacts from Saturday next week, the state’s Emergency Management Council has determined.

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From 12:01am on Saturday, April 30, close contacts of COVID-19 cases will no longer be required to isolate and will instead have to undertake five government-supplied rapid antigen tests over seven days.

They will also be required to wear a mask when leaving the home and banned from high-risk settings such as hospitals, correctional services and aged and disability care.

People will also be required to notify their employers when they are close contacts and will be encouraged to work from home if they can.

Rapid antigen tests will be supplied to close contacts at existing RAT collection points. Close contacts who develop symptoms will still be required to undertake a PCR test and isolate until negative.

The move will eventually bring South Australia into line with Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland – all of which announced this week they would be scrapping close contact isolation requirements.

However, South Australia will proceed a week later than Victoria and NSW, both of which are loosening their close contact rules from tonight.

Speaking after a fast-tracked meeting of the Emergency Management Council this afternoon, Premier Peter Malinauskas said the delay would give authorities more time to monitor case numbers.

“We did look at various options in terms of timing,” he told reporters shortly before 6pm.

“We understand that there would be an appetite amongst some for that change to happen yesterday.

“But we want to make sure that we do it in a considerate and thoughtful way, which is why we are going to buy that additional week to ensure that the case numbers continue to operate at the appropriate level and that our hospital system is coping.”

He also said the eastern states were finishing their school holidays this weekend, while SA had a further week – noting that it was a time that generally puts added pressure on the health system.

The changes to close contact rules in Victoria and NSW prompted renewed calls from industry groups in South Australia for the State Government to follow suit.

Malinauskas said the rule change would provide “huge relief” to workers and business owners.

“This of course will relieve a lot of South Australians, whether they be workers, whether they’re small businesses who currently are having to experience the difficulty that the virus presents as a consequence of close contact change arrangements,” he said.

He did, however, concede the change means South Australia’s current Omicron wave “might not go down as quick as it otherwise would”.

“It might even tick up a little, but the hospitalisation rate will remain the same,” he said.

“We make this announcement on the basis of the information that we have before us.

“It’s all about making sure that the hospital system is coping – it’s under pressure, but it is coping.”

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said SA Health would be giving out more information next week about the scheduling of the five rapid antigen tests for close contacts.

She said she would be recommending close contacts work from home “if that is at all possible”.

“We will be having some general recommendations to close contacts to avoid non-essential gatherings and definitely to avoid contact with people that are more vulnerable,” she said.

“So it’s really just going to be a case of common sense in terms of those other sorts of things.”

Police commissioner and state coordinator Grant Stevens, who earlier in the week asked Malinauskas to bring forward Tuesday’s EMC meeting to today, said the change was “virtually what Professor Spurrier put on the table at the beginning of the meeting”.

“As the Premier said, it was a constructive discussion – we obviously debated whether we could do more or whether we could do it more quickly,” he said.

“But there was a general consensus that these are the right changes and the timing of those changes is appropriate as well.”

SA Health today reported four COVID-19-related deaths and 4500 cases, up from 4079 infections recorded on Thursday and 4256 on Wednesday.

The case number increase came despite a 13.7 per cent decrease in testing numbers over the last 24 hours.

The number of people in hospital also rose from 241 to 246. There are 10 people in intensive care and two on a ventilator.

Today’s deaths include three men in their 70s and one man in his 80s. There have now been 310 people to die with COVID-19 in South Australia, including 306 since the state’s borders opened on November 23 last year.

School mask mandates for adults and students in years 7 to 12 will be reviewed at next Tuesday’s regularly scheduled EMC meeting.

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