Plans to ease restrictions as virus wipeout now possible
Testing results in South Australia have been so good over the past two weeks that Premier Steven Marshall is hopeful the coronavirus can be eliminated from the state, rather than just suppressed.
Mr Marshall made the prediction after the state on Thursday recorded its eighth consecutive day of no new cases of the virus but stopped short of saying when restrictions on everyday life could be lifted.
"Two weeks ago, we looked at three different models elimination, suppression and control and we said that we would be going for suppression,'' Mr Marshall said.
"Having said that, several jurisdictions are heading towards elimination, including South Australia.
"It is quite possible now that we could eliminate this coronavirus in South Australia.''
Latest figures released by SA Health showed that as well as having no new cases, there were only 14 active cases in SA.
It also confirmed the sole patient in intensive care, a 68-year-old man, had been transferred to a general ward.
While Mr Marshall would not predict when restrictions might be eased, he said there would be a "first cut" at a national plan to lift restrictions as soon as today.
"I don't think anything will be resolved … it was never the intention to resolve anything, but two weeks into this four-week period the results have got even better than expected and I think it should give people a lot of optimism,'' he said.
Mr Marshall said a comprehensive testing regime, including a blitz, over the past two weeks had been key.
This morning, he said allowing more people to attend funerals and the opening of playgrounds would be among the first areas to see lockdown restrictions gradually lifted.
"We are looking at those things. Professor Nicola Spurrier (the state's chief public health officer) has already indicated both those areas we're looking at," he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
He said making regional travel available again also was a high priority
"We want to do it with the regional communities welcoming back travellers," he said.
"We know if we can get people back to some intrastate travel it's going to create jobs and keep people employed and going to grow the economy and these things are really important."
More than 52,000 South Australians have been tested for COVID-19, giving the state the highest rate in the nation. SA Health collected 19,378 samples and recorded only four new cases in the past two weeks. In total, SA Health has now collected 57,389 samples from 52,267 people.
Professor Spurrier said it was vital the testing was maintained.
"We have to keep maintaining this high-testing regime," she said
"If we don't do it and we start adjusting the restrictions we are not going to know where we are up to.''
Professor Spurrier urged anyone with a "sniffle'' to be tested and also said the criteria for testing would also be expanded.
She said GPs would be told to test anyone who suffered a sudden loss of smell or taste. She also said testing would start on health care and aged care workers, even if they displayed no symptoms.
Professor Spurrier said it was also vital that everyone downloaded the federal COVIDSafe tracing app.
ICU cleared as test blitz moves to next phase
The last South Australian coronavirus patient in intensive care has been discharged to a general ward as health authorities declare an end to a two-week testing blitz.
Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the 68-year-old man was the last SA COVID-19 case in the Royal Adelaide Hospital's intensive care unit.
It comes as the state records its eighth day in a row with no new cases at the end of a two-week testing campaign.
More than 52,000 South Australians have now been tested for COVID-19, giving the state the highest rate in the nation. In the two-week testing blitz, SA Health collected 19,378 samples and recorded only four new cases.
In total, SA Health has now collected 57,389 samples from 52,267 people.
SA Health said 3.27 per cent of South Australians have been tested for the virus. In NSW it said the figure was 2.62 per cent, Queensland recorded 2.05 per cent, Victoria tested 1.68 per cent and WA 1.39 per cent.
Only 0.02 per cent of those checked returned a positive test for COVID-19.
The state's total number of coronavirus patients remains at 438, 96 per cent of whom have recovered. There are just 14 active cases in the state with three patients being treated at the RAH.
Premier Steven Marshall said testing had been the "cornerstone'' of the state's response to the virus. "It has put us in an absolutely fantastic position,'' Mr Marshall said.
Professor Spurrier said testing parameters would now be expanded again and GPs would be advised to seek coronavirus tests for all patients who suddenly lose senses of taste and smell.
South Australians should continue to seek tests if they experience respiratory symptoms, just as they did during the blitz.
Professor Spurrier and Mr Marshall again renewed calls for Australians to download the Federal Government's COVIDSafe tracing app, saying it was critical to the national effort to suppress the virus.
- Michael McGuire & Ben Brennan
Bowlers get the green light to play
Lawn bowls will be one of the first sports back in action in SA but it will be far from a return to normality.
Bowls SA has announced, after consultation with the State Government, that it would invite venues to re-open under strict social distancing and hygiene rules.
The number of bowlers and the number of people allowed in venues will also be strictly limited.
"Thankfully bowls is in a position where we can play, although with restrictions, as long as people abide by the rules and use common sense," Bowls SA chief executive Mark Mark Easton said.
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Case-free month needed to lift restrictions
A month without new COVID-19 cases is emerging as the magic number to trigger a widespread lifting of restrictions across SA, health experts and business leaders say.
They urge patience to ensure a second wave of the virus does not swamp the state, which on Wednesday passed the milestone of the first full week with zero new cases since the crisis began.
The four-week time frame was the measurement used to open the Barossa Valley this week, after 28 days of zero fresh cases.
A "road to recovery" report released this week by Australia's leading universities, including Adelaide University, also used the figure as part of an "elimination plan" for the virus aimed at starting the easing of restrictions.
A month is also a recommended time frame from the World Health Organisation, because it represents two cycles of the estimated 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus.
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Originally published as Plans to ease restrictions ramp up as virus wipeout now possible