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Unley High student tests positive, PAC teacher in lockdown

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A student at Unley High School has tested positive for COVID-19, with authorities insisting the school was safe to reopen today after closing earlier this week when a teacher returned a positive test.

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The Year 8 pupil becomes the third SA student to return a positive coronavirus test, after previous incidents temporarily shut Sacred Heart and Scotch Colleges.

Unley closed from Tuesday until this morning after a teacher returned a positive test earlier this week.

An email to parents and caregivers after 10am today from principal Greg Rolton said the school had “just been contacted by SA Health following their investigation overnight”.

“SA Health have let us know that a Year 8 student who was identified as a close contact of our staff member has tested positive for COVID-19,” the email states.

“SA Health have assessed the situation and assured us that the child was not at school during the infectious period… it is important that you know that SA Health have confirmed there is no further risk to Unley High School due to this child.”

Rolton said “all other close contacts of the staff member are currently in quarantine and are being monitored for symptoms”.

“While not ideal for the child this outcome supports the isolation process has been effective… we will continue to monitor the situation via SA Health [and] I will keep our school community informed.” 

InDaily understands the affected student has a sibling at another school, and a parent working at top independent school Prince Alfred College.

In response to inquiries, PAC confirmed “a member of staff has been in precautionary isolation since the start of the week”.

“He has a family member who has been in contact with a confirmed case who is not a member of the school community,” the college said in a statement.

“The member of staff and his family is continuing with precautionary isolation in accordance with SA Health directives. The College is taking extra precautionary measures to mitigate the risk of local transmission of COVID-19 within the College grounds.”

The State Government last week issued orders that any school where a student returned a positive test for COVID-19 would be automatically closed for at least 24 hours.

In response to developments at Unley, Opposition spokeswoman Susan Close said it was “inexplicable that the Government chose not to notify parents of this positive COVID-19 test and chose not to close the school”.

“This is in contravention of the government’s own policy,” she said.

“I received this policy, as a parent, and I’m concerned they have breached it already… parents need to have confidence they are being told the truth about what is going on at their children’s school.”

Meanwhile, Adelaide’s Convention Centre, Entertainment Centre and other major crowd hubs are struggling with the reality of an extended virtual shutdown, despite reports today that operator Adelaide Venue Management Corporation’s 850 casual staff – around 85 per cent of the total workforce – would continue to be employed on a daily basis.

News Corp’s The Advertiser today quoted AVM boss Anthony Kirchner saying that “casual staff are continuing to work with us” and that staff advice to the contrary had not been authorised by him.

However, an email sent to casual staff signed off by Kirchner suggests there will be “very little work available” for “at least six months”.

“We are entering unprecedented times,” the email states.

“AVM is expecting that the downturn resulting from the Coronavirus will last at least six months… as previously advised it gives me no joy that there is going to be very little work available for our casual event staff over that period.”

Kirchner told staff AVM’s goal was “to do its very best to outlast the downturn over the coming months in the hope that we can once again provide as many shifts as possible to the event staff when the business conditions stabilise”.

“It will be incredibly challenging in the meantime,” he writes.

“Through no fault of your own or AVM’s, many event staff will experience financial hardship regrettably.”

He tells staff AVM will provide letters to help employees applying for Government benefits, while also “providing casual Event Staff employees with the opportunity to purchase food items at below cost”.

“Access to good quality, affordable food is proving challenging for some,” he notes.

“For those event staff that do fortuitously get the occasional shift, please be aware of the following: Approximately 50 per cent of AVM full and part time staff will be working from home [and] individual teams working in-site are being required to isolate form other teams”.

“You must not talk to or approach people from other teams,” he insists.

Kirchner told InDaily today he had been misquoted in the News Corp article and that while casual workers would continue to remain employees and work “as required”, it would be “nonsensical” to suggest all, or many, would be working on a daily basis.

He declined to detail how many events remained booked for the six month period, saying “we’re still working through issues with clients”.

It comes amid confusion from the local government sector about their obligations, with the Local Government Association yesterday giving firm direction to councils, many of which had moved to close front offices and amenities.

“These offices provide essential resources and contact for local communities,” an email from the LGA insists.

“It says advice from law firm Norman Waterhouse “makes it clear that a council’s principal offices must be open unless a decision is taken under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011 that is must be closed”.

“The LGA’s advice is that a principal office is not open unless members of the public are able to attend in person.”

The LGA told InDaily its advice to councils “is that local government facilities such as gyms, indoor fitness centres and swimming pools are not required to close at this time providing they meet current requirements for social distancing and hand hygiene”.

“Such venues should take actions to ensure regular high standards of environmental cleaning take place,” a spokesman said.

“Ultimately it is up to each council to assess the risks involved and make decisions in the best interest of their workers and communities.”

At least one council has been forced to amend its coronavirus response as a result of the LGA direction.

Mitcham mayor Heather Holmes-Ross said in a video posted on Facebook yesterday that council libraries at Blackwood and Mitcham would be closed, but items could be borrowed by click-and-collect.

She said the Civic Centre would be “physically closed” but face-to-face appointments could be arranged by phone.

But she told InDaily today council had amended its approach in light of the LGA’s advice, with the office now carrying signage urging visitors to call for advice and make arrangements if face-to-face service – such as bill payments in cash – was required.

“It’s business as usual – we’re just doing it in a different way,” she said.

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