South Australia records four deaths, 3,669 COVID-19 cases as most students face remote learning


South Australia has recorded four deaths and 3,669 positive cases of COVID-19.

Premier Steven Marshall said COVID-related deaths included two men in their 80s and two women in their 70s.

Mr Marshall said there were now 225 people in hospital, up from 190 yesterday, including 26 people in intensive care and seven on ventilators.

Yesterday was another near-record day for vaccinations – both boosters and first doses – in South Australia, with 21,581 shots given.

School will start at the end of the month – but the majority of pupils will learn from home for at least a fortnight.

Mr Marshall announced that schools will reopen on January 31, but only vulnerable pupils and the children of essential workers will be able to attend.

Classes will resume on February 2 but will be online, except for students in reception, year 1, year 7, year 8 and year 12 who will be face-to-face.

Steven Marshall has ruled out making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for students.(ABC News)

Mr Marshall said the ‘strong advice’ from the Department for Education was about the hybrid model.

“We know this will massively reduce the number of new infections in February,” Marshall said.

The government expects online learning to last a fortnight, with face-to-face learning for all students due to resume on February 14.

Mr Marshall said authorities were trying to “strike the right balance”.

“We know this first quarter is going to be significantly disrupted, there’s no way to avoid that,” he said.

Beginning of deployment of RATs for close contacts

Long queues of cars formed this morning at Adelaide’s new Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) distribution site, where close contacts can now access free tests.

The site, in Adelaide’s South Parks, was flooded on the first day of a new policy allowing close contacts of known cases to be administered RATs, instead of queuing for PCR tests.

A line of cars for rapid antigen testing.
It didn’t take long for the main queues to form outside Adelaide’s new RAT hub.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

Website problems have also been reported by frustrated members of the public trying to register with SA Health for free tests.

South African Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, who recently emerged from solitary confinement after testing positive for COVID, said the new process had gone “reasonably well”.

“It’s a pretty streamlined process and so far, as far as I know, about 10,000 people have registered to come today for a rapid antigen test,” he said.

Close contact Kathryn Ho said collecting her two tests this morning was a straightforward process.

“In less than 10 minutes I was in and out, I got the kit and you do it at home,” she said.

Susan Cottle also needed to pick up two RATs and arrived early expecting long queues, but said it only took 15 minutes once the site opened.

“I went there prepared,” she said.

“I had ice water, I had another glass with me, I had something to read, but I didn’t get a chance to.”

The Prime Minister said eight more collection sites would be established in regional and outer metropolitan areas over the next 10 days.

Venues will be located in the local government areas of Mount Gambier, Port Augusta, Charles Sturt, Berri/Barmera, Murray Bridge, Port Adelaide Enfield and Onkaparinga, with exact locations and opening dates to be confirmed.

Mr Marshall said more sites would open over the next fortnight.

Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy said while there might be some initial problems with collecting the tests, they would make a big difference.

“Hopefully it will be a bit easier and take the pressure off the main PCR tests, which will now really be for people who have symptoms,” Dr Moy said.

The SA President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Chris Moy.
Dr Chris Moy said the introduction of free rapid antigen tests for close contacts would ease pressure on PCR testing.(ABC News: Claire Campbell)

Some small businesses said they were left behind because an already limited supply of RAT was apparently being diverted.

Henry McGregor, who runs an Allied Health Service in East Adelaide, initially had no problem getting RAT supplies to ensure his staff could test regularly before face-to-face appointments with customers.

However, when he went to check on a second order he had placed, his supplier said that an Australian government had done all the testing made in Australia and there would be none for small businesses until at the end of the month.

“I just don’t see how they didn’t foresee this and decide that, you know, they needed to pump in another 40 million RAT two or three months ago,” Mr McGregor said.

“Customers like to know that you’re providing them with a safe place to come in, which isn’t really possible these days.

“When you can tell people you’ve had a RAT, if there’s been occasional contact through the clinic, that’s also reassuring.

“But unfortunately we can’t do that at the moment because we just don’t have enough supply.”

However, Mr Marshall said he had no information that RATs ordered by retailers had been “snaffled”.

Meanwhile, Adelaide’s only licensed casino has introduced a vaccination mandate, requiring anyone entering its rooms to be fully vaccinated.

The mandate, which comes into effect on February 10, will apply to the entire SkyCity casino as well as its Eos hotel, and all of its bars and restaurants including Sol, iTL, Madame Hanoi and Sean’s Kitchen.

Opposition unveils COVID-19 plan

The opposition SA today unveiled what it described as an “urgent plan of measures” that should be immediately implemented to deal with the state’s COVID situation.

Among the measures listed were securing free rapid antigen tests for students and teachers, and installing air purifiers in classrooms more quickly.

Labor also called for the opening of what they described as “dedicated” COVID vaccination sites for children aged 5 to 11, as well as the creation of mobile vaccination sites in schools.

He wants access to rapid antigen tests to be further improved and said Parliament should be called back to deal with the current COVID ‘crisis’.

SA Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas wears a surgical mask.
SA Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas ended his quarantine period today after testing positive for COVID-19.(Twitter: Peter Malinauskas)

The Prime Minister rejected a request by a majority of members of the House of Assembly to recall Parliament.

The House of Assembly adjourned in November and is not expected to resume until after the March 19 state election.

The letter, written by 25 of the 47 members of the House of Assembly, urges a return of the house from February 8 to 10.

The letter was signed by all Labor and non-attached MPs, including former Liberal MP turned Independent Speaker Dan Cregan.

“We are facing a very significant health crisis and small businesses are on their knees,” Cregan said.

“The strong public expectation is that MPs work as hard as they can and that must include parliamentary sittings.

“A request by a majority of parliamentarians to dismiss parliament, particularly when emergency powers are exercised by the executive, must always be respected and implemented.”

However, Mr Marshall said there would be no recall of Parliament before the March election.

“We are only weeks away from going into interim mode,” he said.

“I am now 100% focused on listening to the experts and keeping South Australia safe.”

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