South Australia to peak in COVID cases in early April

South Australia should reach the peak of its current COVID wave in the coming days, according to models.

Police Commissioner and State Emergency Coordinator Grant Stevens told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that the number of cases should peak within the next week.

“The modeling shows us that we should start on the other side of that peak about April 9, 10 and 11,” he said.

“…So we’re aiming for probably the first week of April to see that peak and then come down on the other side, and I hope it works out that way.”

South Australia registered the second highest number of COVID-19 cases yesterday, with 5,496 new infections.

Despite the increase in the number of cases, vaccination mandates for teachers in public schools and the passenger transport sectors ended at midnight.

“Because we have such a large number of employees who have been vaccinated, it means we can now manage those people when they go back to work,” said Commissioner Stevens.

Passengers can request a vaccinated driver when making a booking or hailing a taxi.ABC News: Michael Clements

Commissioner Stevens said SA Health was working with rideshare and taxi services to allow passengers to request vaccinated drivers as part of the booking platform.

John Trainer, chairman of the Taxi Council SA, said passengers can request a vaccinated driver when making a booking over the phone, or ask the driver directly when hailing a taxi.

But while people can choose a vaccinated driver, they won’t have the same say over their children’s teachers.

Department of Education director Rick Persse acknowledged that parents and students would not know if their teacher had been vaccinated.

“It’s just not practical statewide to let parents or students unilaterally decide which teacher is acceptable for which class,” he said.

Unvaccinated teachers will not be able to work in areas with vulnerable student populations, but elsewhere they will return to the classroom from today on the condition that they wear a mask and undergo a daily rapid antigen test.

A smiling man in a white button-up shirt stands in front of a window with city buildings on it
Rick Persse acknowledges that COVID can be “stressful” in schools and the community, but says support is available.ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

“I’m really, really confident that our school communities and our principals and our kindergarten principals will welcome people back,” Persse said.

He said the small number of unvaccinated teachers returning to the classroom — about 83 of the 200 unvaccinated workforce — “isn’t shifting the dial” for teacher shortages the sector faces due to COVID pressure.

“It certainly won’t hurt if those 83 go back to work, but like I said, it’s a fraction of our teaching staff,” he said.

South Australia currently has 23 schools undergoing “circuit breakers” where students learn from home due to COVID outbreaks.

“That’s not whole schools, that could be an individual class,” Persse said.

“It could be two classes where we switched to distance learning to have that circuit breaker.

A woman standing in front of microphones takes off a face mask
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier is investigating future mask requirements, including for unvaccinated workers.ABC News: Lincoln Rothall

End of vaccination mandate a ‘shock’ for some private schools

The decision to end the vaccine mandate has prompted private schools to consult on the matter as required by their industry framework.

Catholic Education SA will hold a week of consultations, while each independently run school will have to conduct its own consultations.

Carolyn Grantskalns, CEO of the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia (AISSA), described the situation schools now found themselves in as a result of the end of the mandate as “messy”.

Ms Grantskalns said the decision yesterday to end vaccine mandates was a surprise and would have come as a “shock” to some independent school principals.

She said the required consultation process came at the end of the school year, when staff were already “tired.”

“Unfortunately, this is an additional burden,” she said.

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