Marshall flags easing restrictions over weeks – but not dancing or masks

Premier Steven Marshall says he expects South Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions to progressively ease over coming weeks but mask mandates and dancing bans will continue, as the state records another three virus-related deaths and a further dip in daily cases.

Feb 04, 2022, updated Feb 04, 2022
Premier Steven Marshall. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Premier Steven Marshall. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Marshall said this morning that South Australia recorded “around 1300” COVID-19 cases on Thursday, down from 1583 cases reported yesterday and 1723 posted on Wednesday.

There are currently 220 people in hospital with the virus, according to Marshall, while another three people died with COVID-19.

The number of active cases in the state dropped to “about 17,000” from 18,308 yesterday.

The Premier  said the State Government would put together “packages” of reduced restrictions to be announced next week and the following two fortnights.

“I think we can be confident that now we’ll continue to see our numbers reduce,” he told reporters today.

“And that means that we can reduce our restrictions over the next four, six, eight weeks.”

Marshall said the State Government was looking specifically at restrictions on the hospitality, tourism and fitness sectors, as well as the 10-person cap on home gatherings.

He also said lifting restrictions on functions such as weddings and corporate events was of “great consideration”.

“We can’t take them all off at once, so it’s got to be done in a prioritised way,” he said.

“From our perspective, we will be announcing further easing of restrictions next week, and then the fortnight after that and then the fortnight after that.”

However, he was less bullish on the prospect of removing bans on dancing and requirements for indoor mask-wearing.

“I don’t think we’ll be removing the requirement for masks for indoor public areas anytime soon,” he said.

“I know that this is annoying for many people, but we know that this is in many ways our best line of defence.”

Later asked about whether the long-standing ban on dancing would ease, Marshall said: “I think dancing is more difficult to be quite honest.”

“But certainly I’m very in favour of easing restrictions that create jobs,” he said.

“What we know is in the hospitality sector, functions are really important – that means weddings can go ahead, corporate events can go ahead.

“We want to really more than anything to just get that demand back, so getting people back to hospitality is critical.”

It comes after the State Government last week lifted indoor density limits on restaurants, pubs and clubs from 25 per cent to 50 per cent, while narrowing the requirement for QR codes check-ins and encouraging employers to bring back 25 per cent of their staff to the office.

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Meanwhile, Marshall has defended SA Health’s timing for listing a pair of city bars as close contact/high risk locations nearly a week after their exposure period.

Zhivago nightclub in the CBD was on Thursday night listed as a close contact location for Friday, January 28 (11.45pm) to Saturday, January 29 (5.30am), meaning the quarantine period for close contacts who attended the bar expires at midnight tonight.

Fumo Blu on Rundle Street was also listed as a “high risk location” for the same night last week.

Marshall said it was “very important” to issue the advice even if it seems “illogical” to some people.

“Obviously you can’t determine whether something’s a high transmission site until there have been a high number of transmissions,” he said.

“We still put it up there so that people can monitor their symptoms.

“The seven days elapses for those people as of midnight tonight, but it’s still important to get that message out because there are a lot of people with this disease who are asymptomatic.”

Number of teachers in isolation ‘acceptable’

Meanwhile, the Premier says the number of teachers in isolation at the moment is “acceptable” and “in proportion” to the size of the workforce.

With South Australia’s schools beginning their first week of “hybrid” learning this week, Education Department CEO Rick Persse told ABC Radio this morning that 199 teachers are now in isolation along with a further 173 support staff.

Marshall said this was “roughly in accordance” with the more than 30,000 people working in education in SA.

“We think this is a very acceptable number, it’s not disproportionate to the number that we’ve been reporting over the last couple of weeks in the healthcare sector.

“It’s just a function of the number of people working in that sector.”

“The numbers have been actually very encouraging.”

Persse earlier today said the Department had 4000 teachers “ready, willing and able to be deployed across the state” in case school-based outbreaks occurred.

“We’re taking sort of what I’d call an insurance policy and putting some staff on contract, and getting out, at this stage, to regional centres for deployment at some of our smaller schools,” he said on radio.

He added that no schools have had to shut down or partially close due to an outbreak.

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