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No new restrictions on horizon as SA approaches 'back to normal'

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The state’s Emergency Management Council has received a “high-level” briefing on new Omicron subvariants but is not contemplating reintroducing restrictions, with police commissioner and state coordinator Grant Stevens saying South Australia is “very close to being back to normal”.

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SA Health confirmed last Monday that one case of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants had been detected in South Australia from two international travellers.

The two subvariants are thought to be around 25 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron and also more capable of re-infection.

Stevens said the Emergency Management Council, the cabinet subcommittee in charge of COVID-19 management, this morning received a “very high-level briefing” on the emergence of the new subvariants from South Africa.

“There was discussion about Omicron BA.4 and 5, but at this time not a lot of information that provides any conclusive sort of direction in terms of how that might impact,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Asked whether the briefing had caused concern for authorities, Stevens said there were “no concerns arising at this point in time from new variants”.

“And there was no discussion or even any contemplation about making changes to the directions as they impact on activities in South Australia,” he said.

SA Health today reported three COVID-19 deaths and another 3683 cases – up from 2986 infections yesterday.

PCR testing numbers also increased 33 per cent over the last 24 hours. The number of people in hospital dropped from 228 to 221, with six people in intensive care and one on a ventilator.

The BA.2 Omicron subvariant is currently the state’s dominant strain of COVID-19, with SA Health reporting that 94.9 per cent of genome samples are the BA.2 strain.

The subvariant saw South Australia’s daily cases peak in April at more than 6000 infections.

It comes as the Malinauskas Government’s June 30 deadline for revoking the state’s major emergency declaration draws closer.

The declaration, which gives Stevens broad powers to enact COVID-19 restrictions as state coordinator, is set to be replaced by amendments to the Public Health Act which enable the government to continue to enforce restrictions such as seven-day quarantine for COVID-positive patients, mask mandates for high-risk settings and vaccination mandates for healthcare workers.

The Public Health Act amendments sailed through the Lower House last week but are set to face a longer debate in the Upper House where the Liberal opposition has flagged it will be “reserving our right to further consider matters and raise them”.

Asked about his views on the bill, Stevens said: “I think everyone’s keen to see a change in the management structure for COVID-19”

“We are very close to being back to normal, so we need to make sure we have the right mechanism in place to continue managing the impact of COVID in our community,” he said.

Asked whether he was expecting his powers as state coordinator to be removed this month, Stevens said it would depend on when the amendments Bill is passed through parliament

“We’ll just wait and see how that unfolds – we can’t forecast the outcome of the parliamentary process,” he said.

The EMC is scheduled to meet next week when it will discuss mask requirements for school students.

“There was a brief discussion about masks in schools and that’s on the agenda for the next meeting for a decision in relation to what that looks like going forward for students,” Stevens said.

Masks requirements for students from years 7-12 and all adults on campus are currently scheduled to remain in place until May 30.

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