Thousands of asymptomatic close contacts are now allowed to return to work in South Australia, as the state recorded four new Covid-19 deaths.
Premier Steven Marshall said there were 3669 new cases on Thursday, with two men aged in their 80s and two women aged in their 70s dying with the virus.
The number of people in hospital also increased to 225. There are 26 people in intensive care, with seven on ventilators.
Thursday’s numbers are down on Wednesday when seven deaths and 3715 new cases were recorded.
The close contacts are allowed to return to work under new directions from police.
The new rules affect 14 industries and anyone who is a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case will be able to go back to work to “maintain a function critical to the South Australian community”.
The critical close contact must be separated from the positive Covid-19 case while not at work, be fully vaccinated with a booster shot if eligible and have undertaken a PCR test before coming to work.
If awaiting a PCR test result, they are still permitted to return to work so long as they have returned a negative rapid antigen test.
From Thursday, close contacts can also register on the SA Health website and pick up two free rapid antigen tests from the supersite at Southern Parklands.
It will only be mandatory to report a positive result, and if they receive one, they will not be required to get a PCR test.
“We see and envisage that there’ll be a large number of people switching from PCR testing to rapid antigen testing,” Mr Marshall said on Wednesday.
“I would just point out that the PCR testing is still far more accurate.
“It’s still the preferred test, but we do want to provide this alternative pathway as well.”
Mr Marshall reported a “near record” of vaccinations on Wednesday, with 21,581 people getting the jab.
A schools plan will be unveiled in full on Friday, with schools to open January 31 for children of essential workers and vulnerable children.
Classes will resume on February 2, with classes split between online learning for the first two weeks for some students and face-to-face learning for reception, years one, seven, eight and 12s.
“We know this will massively reduce the number of new infections during February,” Mr Marshall said.
“We had a good update from the modellers today. We’ll get another final update tomorrow before that’s more fully released to the general public.”
Further advice about rapid antigen testing in the school environment will be released next week, he said.
Meanwhile, WA recorded two new local cases and 14 travel-related infections overnight.
One of the new cases is linked to the Hyatt Hotel cluster and the other is a household contact of previous infection related to interstate travel. Both are in quarantine.
Eleven cases relate to returned interstate travellers and three are linked to overseas travellers. All are in quarantine.
WA Health said investigations were continuing into how a woman who acquired the virus from an unknown source was exposed.
“Genomic sequencing is underway to determine the variant,” WA Health said.
“This case is in quarantine. Household contacts have been tested and are negative.
“The woman was infectious in the community but did not attend work and there are likely only a limited number of potential exposure sites.”
Exposure sites are continuing to be added here.
It has also been revealed that a Covid-positive person, who was self-quarantining in a city hotel, travelled in a rideshare vehicle to the Royal Perth Hospital testing clinic on Wednesday.
A St John Ambulance Covid-19 vehicle returned the person to the hotel.
Health authorities and the police are working to locate the rideshare driver.
“The risk to the community is considered to be extremely low, as it is unlikely this case is still infectious,” WA Health said.