One patient is aged in their 20s, the other is in their 60s. Twenty people are in hospital and there are 10 in the Royal Adelaide Hospital intensive care unit, seven of them critical. Eight are men and two are women, aged from 44 to 77.
No extra cases have been recorded from the Ruby Princess cruise ship or airport baggage handlers clusters. Cruise ships account for 120 cases and the airport cluster stands at 28, with more expected.
SA Pathology has completed 33,000 tests and officials said demand was quiet over the weekend with just 28 tests at the RAH clinic on Sunday.
Chief Public Health Officer Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier said: “I’d like to extend a big thank you to all South Australians. It is fantastic to have low numbers over the last couple of days and I hope it will continue.”
She stressed it was vital to continue to maintain good hygiene and social distancing.
Today marks 14 days – and the last to check for symptoms – since the last of 41 planes landed at Adelaide with passengers who had the disease before mandatory self-isolation of arrivals came into force.
SA Health officials had gone to great lengths to track fellow passengers sitting near the confirmed cases on each flight but it appears few, if any, were infected in-flight.
While she did not have a figure, Dr Spurrier said flights appeared to be far different to cruise ships, where the disease appeared to spread easily.
New efforts to prepare for the expected peak of patients include training 80 nurses to work in high-level care at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital as an extra 10 intensive care beds and three high-dependency beds are added.
The extra beds will double the WCH’s critical care capacity and, for the first time, the ICU beds will be available for adult women if needed.
Premier Steven Marshall said the beds were part of the plan to be ready for rising numbers of patients.
“The Women’s and Children’s Hospital will be on the frontline of dealing with the most severe cases of this insidious disease,” he said.
“The battle to control the coronavirus pandemic needs to be fought by all of us in changing the way we live.”
Mr Marshall said the strict measures now in place were delivering encouraging results but emphasised: “We cannot take our foot off the brake.”
He said while efforts to “flatten the curve” continue, the state was working to double ICU capacity “so when the peak does hit we have maximum capacity to treat as many people as needed”.
Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said: “We know when the COVID-19 pandemic reaches its peak our hospitals need to be ready for any scenario.”
WCH chief executive Lindsey Gough said the 13 extra beds would allow the hospital to continue to deliver high-quality care while dealing with the extra demand.
“We already have enough beds and provisions in place for COVID-19 patients, however we need to ensure we still have enough beds available to care for other patients in need,” she said.
“These three extra HDU beds have been placed in close proximity to the current Paediatric Intensive Care Unit in the event we require them.
“The 10 ICU beds will be on standby to care for both women and children who don’t have the virus.”
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New anti-virus measures rushed through
A skeleton crew of State Parliament MPs will meet again on Tuesday, as Premier Steven Marshall seeks to push through anti-coronavirus measures.
They include “better protections for landlords and tenants”, and a suite of measures to protect South Australian jobs amid the crisis.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said: “We have a strong plan to stop the spread of COVID-19 and minimise the impact on our state”.
Measures include speeding up infrastructure approvals by removing some normal parliamentary oversight, exempting JobKeeper payments from payroll tax and restricting rental evictions in cases of extreme financial hardship.
The Government also wants to allow authorised to use “reasonable force” to detain people under orders by the Chief Public Medical Officer or directions made by the State Coordinator, SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens.
Recycling depots will also be able to pay via EFTPOS as well as cash.
Government officials acting under the direction of emergency powers would also be protected from liability, a move Ms Chapman says will sunsure “they can go about their duties freely, at an especially important time”.
Spike in calls to Lifeline
Counselling service Lifeline experienced its busiest-ever month in March as people struggled to cope with the anxiety prompted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Lifeline received 88,870 calls from around Australia in March to its 13 11 14 service, 25 per cent more than normal. Last Sunday, 3175 calls were taken, one every 30 seconds, with almost 40 per cent related to COVID-19 concern. The service is expecting April to be even busier.
Numbers for South Australia were not available but it was estimated demand at the local Lifeline service had also jumped by around a quarter,
Lifeline Adelaide practice co-ordinator Kat Wallace said most of the anxiety being felt was not about potentially becoming sick with the virus, but about the sudden social isolation that had been forced on many.
“The lives and the homes of Australians now look completely different to what they did this time last month,’’ Ms Wallace said. “It happened really quickly.’’
“It can leave anyone feeling like they don’t have control over a situation and leave them feeling overwhelmed and unsure. It’s a really unsettling time.’’
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She said COVID-19 had also followed other events that had caused distress such as the bushfires and the murder of Brisbane mum Hannah Clarke and her three children.
“There have been really huge things happening that have sent people reeling and now we have this and we are all feeling really isolated.’’
Ms Wallace said this feeling of anxiety and being overwhelmed could happen to anyone, regardless of their station in society.
“We know that a crisis can hit anyone at any point in time,’’ she said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, no one is immune to crisis.
“Even people you would imagine would have the strength and the resources to be able to know what their triggers are and now how to cope can also be confronted by some of this stuff.’’
She said it was important that those under pressure feel comfortable about asking for help.
“Be kind to yourself, be patient and if you recognise you need help, reach out,’’ she said. “It’s normal to feel this level of anxiety, it’s normal to feel unsettled.’’
Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Best Easter gift is your blood
Officials are urging an extra 500 South Australians to donate blood as an Easter gift.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood says patients are currently receiving the blood they need, but an extra 7500 blood and plasma donors are needed by Easter across Australia.
Donations have been drying up as people heed the advice to stay home, with more than 900 appointments a day cancelled nationwide.
“While there could be a number of reasons for this, we know people are changing their routines,” Lifeblood spokeswoman Jennifer Salter said. “We need 29,000 blood donations around Australia each and every week … there is no substitute for blood and we can’t stockpile it.”
Ms Salter stressed that donor centres were safe to visit and excluded from the current advice against non-essential travel, the exceptions being people aged over 70 and anyone who is feeling unwell.
Donor centres have increased disinfecting and use social distancing.
There is no evidence of coronavirus being transmissible via blood transfusion.
To give blood call 131 495 or visit donateblood.com.au
SA testing for virus in all respiratory samples
South Australia’s coronavirus testing regime captures people who fall outside strict normal guidelines, a unique move aimed at detecting community transmission to save more lives.
SA Health has now passed the 30,000 mark for coronavirus tests, and is using a stockpile of critical chemicals that it banked up for years but are now in short supply around the globe.
The so-called “background testing” policy means that all respiratory samples sent to SA Pathology for other conditions are also scanned for the presence of coronavirus.
The aim is to see if the virus is loose among people who don’t meet the strict standard coronavirus testing criteria, so officials can stop outbreaks that would otherwise go undetected.
According to the prestigious University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, SA has been tracking among the places in the world for the highest number of tests per person.
Premier Steven Marshall said that having the best data available, which was becoming the envy of other states and countries, helped him to make right calls on SA’s local situation.
“Every time we take a respiratory specimen, nasal or oral, we also do the coronavirus test. These are not people that have been authorised to have the COVID-19 test,” he said.
“We have chosen a cohort that will give some indication of what the underlying condition in our population is. Those are background checks that are world-leading practice.
“That is why we know with confidence where we are, and the strength of our data.”
He said that SA Health had moved hard and early to comprehend the challenge.
“This early effort is now paying dividends for SA.
“Our strong plan is to flatten the curve.
“Having accurate data is a critical part of our plan to stop the spread of coronavirus.”
Oxford researchers Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Joe Hasell say good testing is “one of the most important things that countries need to be doing to help understand and stop the spread”.
They say there is significant concern that many countries still have poor testing regimes, making it difficult to know what is happening in their regions and respond in the right way.
“Testing allows infected people to know,” the pair write in a recent article.
“People who don’t know they are infected might not stay at home and thereby risk infecting others.
“Testing is also crucial for an appropriate response to the pandemic. It allows us to understand the spread of the disease and to take evidence-based measures to slow down the spread.”
Individuals who qualify for a coronavirus test in SA are those with the common symptoms and have also travelled overseas in the past 14 days or interstate in the past week.
Those who have been in contact with known cases and have symptoms also qualify, as do healthcare workers with a fever and an acute respiratory infection.
Common indications of acute respirator infections are shortness of breath, cough and sore throat.
Testing has been expanded to deal with particular SA outbreaks, like people who have been at Adelaide Airport since a cluster was found in baggage handlers, and a special Barossa clinic.
No shortage in flu shots, Premier says
Premier Steven Marshall says an apparent shortage of flu shots is possibly because people are getting them earlier this year.
He said he would speak to Health Minister Stephen Wade about the shortage, after reports emerged of pharmacies cancelling appointments at the weekend.
At the weekend, SA had 13 news cases – 11 on Saturday and two on Sunday, the smallest rise in COVID-19 in weeks.
The Premier told ABC News this morning SA had ordered “more flu vaccines than even last year”.
“I think there’s a general high level of anxiety for people who are jumping in early to get those earlier,” he said.
“The pattern of people going to get the flu vaccine has completely changed this year, but my understanding is that we’ve got plenty of flu vaccines. We’ll have more to say about that later today.”
Mr Marshall also said SA’s COVID-19 numbers had been increased by cruise ships.
The Ruby Princess docks in NSW today, with about 200 crew members suffering coronavirus-like symptoms.
Cruise ships have resulted in 120 of SA’s cases, the majority from the Ruby Princess when it docked in Sydney last month.
“It’s a disaster, let’s be quite clear,” he said.
“The reality is that South Australia was disproportionately affected. I think now we’re over 125 infections that come off of cruise ships.
”I don’t know what it is about South Australians and cruising, but we have been disproportionately affected with well over a quarter, heading towards a third, of all of our cases from cruise (ships), and that’s really skewing our figures on the national stage.”
SA had two new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, as the State Government said nearly 100 new paramedics would be fast-tracked into frontline service.
It also announced a deal with the state’s private hospitals at the weekend, underwriting them to open 1700 beds, increase SA’s intensive care unit capabilities by 40 per cent and keep medical staff in jobs.
Senior Government sources also revealed concerns about how the public system would cope if private hospitals closed after all non-elective surgeries were cancelled last week to shore up beds.
The partnership would include public-sector use of wards and theatres, essential equipment such as ventilators, as well as personal protective equipment supplies from all private hospitals.
SA virus cases by day
Calls to expanded MedSTAR
Seriously ill or injured country patients may die waiting for a retrieval to a city intensive care unit as coronavirus threatens to overwhelm retrieval services, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia warns.
SA Ambulance Service’s MedSTAR retrieval service is already facing changes to deal with the looming surge in demand.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr John Hall said retrieval capacity needs to be drastically increased to deal with the transfer of infectious and seriously ill patients.
“Looking at the numbers that are coming in from overseas, we know we are going to need two to three times the retrieval capacity currently available,” Dr Hall said.
“With the expected surge in seriously unwell COVID-19 cases presenting in rural areas, we are concerned there will be significant delays in retrieval, leaving these patients ventilated for days in rural hospitals that are not equipped or staffed for this type of care.
“It is entirely possible we will see coronavirus patients dying while waiting for transfer.
“We also need to ensure that beds are made available in regional and city hospitals to admit rural patients.”
Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said “significant discussions” are now underway to manage retrievals as COVID fuels demand.
“One of the particular goals being pursued is to have more centralised co-ordination of retrievals and bed placements — one of the of the great frustrations of rural doctors and health professionals for many years has been the challenge from time to time of getting a bed,” he said.
“Particularly in the COVID environment we want to improve our performance there.”
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