‘Continual waves of COVID’ as another surge looms

New modelling predicts South Australia will likely face another COVID-19 wave in November, with the Health Minister saying the state will have to keep managing the virus which is “not going away”.

Aug 23, 2022, updated Aug 23, 2022
Health and Wellbeing Minister Chris Picton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Health and Wellbeing Minister Chris Picton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

South Australia’s Emergency Management Council met today and made no changes to the state’s COVID-19 laws, as cases track below 1000 and the state emerges from its third wave of the virus.

Health Minister Chris Picton said new modelling presented to the EMC showed the state would likely face another wave of cases in November.

“We have seen a significant reduction in terms of cases in the community, but there is likely to be an additional wave that we’ll face,” he told reporters after the meeting.

“The modelling that we’ll release today points to that being likely to come around November, and that’s without another variant.”

South Australia’s third wave, driven by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, peaked on July 19 at 5027 cases.

Daily cases have come down significantly since then, with SA Health reporting 850 infections today after 786 on Monday, 664 on Sunday and 851 on Saturday.

But Picton said the state government would “have to continue to be in a state where we’re ready and managing COVID cases on an ongoing basis”.

“COVID is not going away from our community, I think it’s very clear that we’re going to see continual waves of COVID going on into the future,” he said.

“And that’s clearly a lot of work that we have to do to make sure that managing COVID in our hospitals is part of ongoing business in the future.

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“This is not a one-off event that we’re going to fly a flag and say ‘COVID’s over’, we’re going to have to continue.”

Picton’s comments come after University of South Australia epidemiologist Adrian Esterman said earlier this month that Australia can “expect a new wave from a new subvariant around November”.

“There’s absolutely no guarantee that the next wave that comes along isn’t going to be incredibly severe. We simply don’t know,” Esterman said at the time.

Picton said the latest modelling presented to the state government cannot take into account a new variant taking hold.

“If we get a new variant … that changes the dynamic,” Picton said

“Modellers can’t predict when a new variant is going to be or how transmissible it might be, that’s going to have to be something we continue to monitor for.”

He also said the modelling forecasts the number of people in hospital with the virus will come down “in coming weeks”.

“We’re also doing work now in terms of if that does come to fruition, how we can best manage in terms of recalibrating some of our internal hospital COVID responses so we can improve the efficiency of the system,” Picton said.

There are 242 people with COVID-19 in South Australian hospitals, according to SA Health, including eight people in intensive care and three on a ventilator.

SA Health reported that another 10 people with COVID-19 have passed away, with their deaths occurring between April 16 and August 22.

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