1472 new SA cases, more hospital admissions ‘forthcoming’

UPDATED | Prime Minister Steven Marshall says non-urgent elective surgery has been postponed and that mandatory booster shots for frontline health workers are likely as South Australia prepares for a “very imminent” increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions registered a further 1472 cases.

Speaking after this morning’s COVID-ready committee meeting, Marshall said that all elective surgery except category 1 and acute category 2 appointments would be put on hold in an attempt to increase healthcare capacity to a “very imminent and likely increase in hospital admissions throughout our state “.

“We are doing this to preserve our healthcare professionals for the important task that lies ahead with the Omicron variant,” he told reporters.

SA Health reported this afternoon a further 1472 cases today, on top of 995 reported on Tuesday, although the number of admissions is unchanged.

The state’s daily caseload has increased since Dec. 15, when only 25 COVID-19 cases were detected, with more than 6,000 people now infected since the borders opened on Nov. 23.

According to SA Health, there are currently 37 patients in the hospital, including four people in intensive care and one man in his 30s on ventilation.

Today’s new cases include 135 children, 94 teenagers, 654 women aged between 18 and 100 and 587 men aged 18 and 98. SA Health said the demographics of two cases are unknown.

Of the new cases, 725 are vaccinated, 67 are unvaccinated, while the vaccination status of a further 680 is unknown to SA Health.

There are currently 6,316 active cases in the state, of which 93 are in a media hotel, while 6,186 are in home quarantine.

Marshall said South Australia’s daily caseload doubles “every three or four days”.

“We have to do everything we can to reduce our mobility here in South Australia to make sure we do not have all the infections that hit at exactly the same time,” he said.

“Take our call to work from home very seriously.

“We have already put in place some of these rules and protocols across the public service in South Australia.

“But we ask every single employer in the state to do what they can to reduce this transmission by asking their workforce, where possible, to work from home.”

Marshall also said Police Commissioner Grant Stevens was preparing a guide to mandating booster vaccines for frontline health professionals.

“It is very likely that we are now moving to make it mandatory to have three doses … for all our frontline healthcare workers, disability workers in South Australia and also those working in geriatric care,” he said.

“It will be a requirement for people to have that booster within two weeks of being eligible to be considered fully vaccinated.

“It is very important that we get these people in the front line as protected as possible because we need to ensure that we retain as much of our health care staff as we possibly can through this period.”

Dual vaccination mandates are already in place for police, teachers and passenger transport workers at the airport, although this is the first time the state government has signaled its intention to impose a third dose in any sector.

It comes as long queues continue to plague South Australia’s test sites, with SA Health reporting waits of up to six hours at the Victoria Park drive-through clinic this morning.

The Hampstead test site in the northern suburbs of Adelaide also reported waiting times of six hours, while Aldinga (five hours), Adelaide Airport (four hours) and Ridgehaven (three to four hours) and The Royal Adelaide Hospital (3.5 hours) have had similarly long cows, according to SA Health.

Marshall said his “strong advice” was that anyone who needed a PCR test should book in.

“We keep hearing reports that people show up and they’ve been in the queue sometimes under pretty harsh heat conditions for 5, 6, 7, 8 hours,” he said.

“There’s no need to do this. I checked with SA Health again this morning, the people who book in go through in a prioritized way, they get through in an hour or a little over an hour.”

Marshall said the Queensland government’s decision to scrap PCR tests before arrival for those traveling from SA to Qld from Jan. 1 would ease pressure on test sites, though it urged the state to drop the requirement earlier.

“This is very important to us because even yesterday, 1750 of our final PCR tests were dedicated to a pre-departure test to Queensland,” he said.

“So we will not do any pre-departure tests for any state in the future.”

SA Health reported 22,742 tests administered on Tuesday.

Southern Australia’s case numbers appear to be on the same track as New South Wales and Victoria.

NSW reported 11,201 cases on Wednesday, nearly double the 6062 it posted on Tuesday.

The state currently has 625 people in the hospital with the virus, including 61 on intensive care, and recorded three more deaths overnight.

Victoria today registered 3,767 new cases and five deaths, with 397 patients currently hospitalized.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has convened a meeting of the National Cabinet tomorrow as COVID-19 cases rise across the country.

Marshall said he hoped a “nationally consistent test track, isolate and quarantine protocols” would emerge from the meeting, as well as an update on the use of rapid antigen testing across the country.

The premiere rejected calls from the Labor Party to make the use of rapid tests free in southern Australia.

Shadow health spokesman Chris Picton said today’s announcement of elective surgery would be a “devastating blow” to those on waiting lists.

“There are 18,726 South Australians waiting for elective surgery and 2,010 of them are already delayed,” he said.

“The vast majority of these patients would be category 2 or 3 surgical patients who are now facing an uncertain future for their surgery.

“The fact that these cancellations are happening here, but not elsewhere around the country, shows how vulnerable Steven Marshall has left the healthcare system.”

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