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Allied health worker COVID jab mandate up for review

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South Australia’s Emergency Management Council will meet this morning to discuss whether to end COVID-19 vaccination mandates for allied health workers, as the government prepares to launch a review of the state’s emergency management laws.

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The council is expected to meet this morning to discuss whether to lift a mandate that allows only triple-vaccinated employees from working in allied healthcare settings.

Similar mandates have already been removed in other sectors, such as education and police, but despite concerns about worker shortages, unvaccinated allied healthcare workers are still banned from their workplace.

Allied healthcare workers include professionals such as podiatrists, chiropractors, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

The Emergency Management Council is also expected to run through how South Australia is tracking with its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the state yesterday reported five more COVID deaths and 2141 new cases.

The five deaths included a woman in her 80s, a woman in her 90s, two men in their 70s and a man in his 80s.

Latest figures from SA Health show just under 94 per cent of eligible South Australians aged over 12 have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 72.9 per cent are triple-vaccinated.

Today’s meeting comes after Premier Peter Malinauskas told a parliamentary estimates committee hearing on Monday afternoon that he expected to receive advice shortly on how the government could review the state’s emergency management laws.

Lawyers have long called for a review of the Emergency Management Act, which was used to place South Australia under a major emergency declaration for two years during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration, which ended in May, handed Police Commissioner Grant Stevens in his role as state emergency coordinator sweeping powers to impose restrictions on businesses and people’s lives.

Changes to the Public Health Act that passed parliament in April allowed the government to end the emergency management declaration while retaining lingering restrictions such as healthcare worker vaccination mandates.

The SA Law Society has previously warned the Emergency Management Act was only intended to be used for short emergency situations such as natural disasters and terrorism incidents.

It argued that a review was needed to determine how it could be adapted for prolonged events such as pandemics.

A review of the Emergency Management Act was listed as one of the Malinauskas Government’s targets in the 2022-23 State Budget handed down earlier this month.

Asked when the review would start, what its terms of reference would be and when it was expected to finish, Malinauskas told parliament that he was still waiting on advice.

“I understand the Department (of the Premier and Cabinet) is preparing a piece of advice for me that I expect to receive shortly,” he said.

“As you would appreciate, reviews vary in nature in terms of their depth and their breadth.

“Obviously, we’ve gone through some significant events and the Act has been tested quite substantially in recent years.

“But, in terms of the length of that review I think that would be informed by the advice… that we receive from the department.”

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