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Schools take virus hit as COVID wave looms

The number of South Australian students and education staff absent due to COVID-19 is rising as the state’s hospital system braces for another wave of the virus to hit next month.

A total of 697 teachers and school services officers were absent on Monday for COVID-19 related reasons, up from 549 on Friday, 597 on Thursday and 537 on Wednesday.

The Education Department figures also show 3.1 per cent of students across the state are absent for COVID-19-related reasons.

At the start of the month, the student absentee percentage was hovering around two per cent.

In the Riverland, Berri Regional Secondary College is currently in the middle of a three-day “circuit breaker” closure of its year 11 and 12 classes amid an ongoing outbreak.

The college’s principal Emily Griggs said the temporary closure, which is running from Tuesday to Thursday, is needed to contain the spread of the virus.

“We have considered the impact of ongoing positive cases emerging amongst staff and students across the school and in our community over the last 24 hours and have determined the need for a circuit breaker to further reduce the spread of the virus,” she wrote in a letter to all parents.

New State Government-commissioned modelling undertaken by the University of Adelaide shows South Australia’s daily caseload is likely to reach around 8000 in April as the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron takes hold.

The modelling also predicts that peak adult ward occupancy in the next wave could reach above 200.

University of South Australia epidemiologist and biostatistician Professor Adrian Esterman said he expected cases in South Australia to reach 8000 a day by April 13 if restriction levels remain the same.

South Australia recorded four COVID-19-related deaths and 3686 cases on Tuesday. There are currently 165 people in hospital, 11 in intensive care and two on a ventilator.

It comes after Premier Peter Malinauskas yesterday announced a shake-up of South Australia’s pandemic management.

The state’s newly elected leader has set a June 30 deadline to revoke the major emergency declaration and abolished the former government’s COVID-ready committee in favour of an “Emergency Management Council” which will meet on Friday to review South Australia’s 15-minute face-to-face close contact definition.

Malinauskas also told reporters yesterday that he has directed SA Health to “rapidly plan for urgent additional hospital preparedness” ahead of the looming COVID-19 spike.

A “substantial” advertising campaign to increase lagging booster shot rates will also be developed, Malinauskas told reporters.

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Schools take virus hit as COVID wave looms