UPDATE | Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas is demanding regular public health briefings ahead of the March state election as he unveiled a series of COVID measures today that he says the Marshall’s government should pass immediately — although he won’t commit to doing so himself should he be elected.

On his first day out of isolation since testing positive for the virus, Malinauskas demanded that the government immediately implement its “action plan”, detailed in a 16-page glossy document and covering eight separate policy areas – but he admitted he was unsure how expensive it would be to do so.

These include measures to build COVID capacity in schools, providing free rapid antigen test kits to essential workers and low-income and vulnerable people, and supporting businesses affected by the pandemic.

It comes as the government prepares to clarify its intentions for the resumption of schooling in South Africa, with details expected possibly as early as this afternoon, and tomorrow at the latest.

Malinauskas strongly criticized the government’s decision to override Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier’s initial advice to close state borders just days after they reopened on Nov. 23, in order to assess the likely impact of the emerging variant of Omicron – a move he called “the biggest failing public policy in our living memory”.

“The state government’s decision not to follow Nicola Spurrier’s recommendation to close our borders to the Omicron variant was a catastrophic failure,” he said.

“The Marshall Government’s lack of preparedness before the borders opened left the government playing ‘catch-up football’ during an emergency period…failure to plan really resulted in the failure of a plan .”

But while he criticized the government’s failure to follow public health advice, the plan contains several measures recently rejected by Spurrier herself.

Labour’s ‘plan’ includes a call to ‘secure a stock for our schools to provide free rapid antigen tests to teachers and pupils’, with dedicated sites for 5-11 year olds to get vaccinated, including sites mobile vaccination programs in schools.

The focus is on classroom ventilation measures, including accelerating the “installation of air purifiers in classrooms” – a measure currently being rolled out in Victoria.

But Spurrier told a parliamentary committee on Monday it was not “best practice” to establish vaccination clinics in schools, saying multiple administration sites made it harder to keep vaccines at the proper temperature.

“Also, you need a safe clinical place to administer vaccines and that’s in case there’s an anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine,” she said.

“It’s less effective if you have staff going to all the schools in South Australia than it would be to have children in a GP or pharmacy where there are good clinical protocols or also in one of our vaccination clinics.

“So at first glance it seems like a good idea to have vaccinations in schools, but from a practical and clinical point of view there are better alternatives.”

She also argued there was ‘very little evidence’ that air purifiers would help stop the spread in schools, saying, ‘I know some states use it more than we do here. [but] making a full assessment of every part of the school is basically impossible.

“What’s best is to open as many windows and doors as possible and have fresh air in the classrooms,” she said.

Malinauskas said he received a half-hour briefing yesterday from Spurrier and Health CEO Chris McGowan rejecting the public health director’s precautionary rejection of his air purifier suggestion.

“She made it clear to me that the air purification system had no drawbacks in terms of danger. [and] there is a range of public health advice on the public record [that] there is an advantage,” he said.

The Labor leader says he wants such briefings to become regular once the government moves into caretaker mode – possibly in as little as four weeks – to ensure public health information is not politicized while throughout the campaign.

“That is certainly my hope and I expressed it yesterday during our meeting with [Spurrier] and the CEO of Health,” he said.

“Their response was that they are responding to the government of the day – they understand the request and will work on it in due course.

“It’s a reasonable position for them to take. [but] I think there is a deep responsibility for the current government, but also for the alternative government, to be informed as fully as possible so that in the event of a transition of government, we are well equipped to handle this smoothly.

However, he suggested it was up to Prime Minister Steven Marshall to adapt, saying: ‘If Steven Marshall informs the CEO of Health to provide me with the same daily briefings that he receives, then I will receive them – and I hope that is the case. ”

Malinauskas also wants parliament to be recalled before the campaign begins to debate legislative responses to the COVID crisis.

The power to dismiss Parliament briefly reverted to the Speaker after Labor and the crossbench hijacked the government with a series of changes, but the new regime was short-lived.

“I am proactively advocating with Steven Marshall to allow Parliament to do its job,” Malinauskas said.

“South Australians live in a democracy [and] Right now, in our state, we have a declared emergency that gives the government an extraordinary level of power and authority – one that deserves careful consideration.

“But we don’t have that review…because Steven Marshall shut down our parliament for months…it’s unfortunate, but it can be fixed with the stroke of a pen.”

Other measures in the Labor Party document include cash payments to eligible businesses between $100 and $500 a day when density restrictions above 50% of capacity remain in place, a moratorium on evictions of commercial tenants and sales and deferrals of social charges, without reimbursement of interest. plans.

The opposition also wants accommodation support payments when overnight stays have been canceled and a cancellation fund for the arts and major events, with grants of up to $250,000 to help address financial losses when plans are abandoned or attendance is limited.

However, although he says these measures should be implemented now, he has not pledged to do so himself if he wins the March election – although they are still needed.

“No, what I’m telling you is that we will go to the next state elections… with a series of actions that we will introduce in the event that we form a government to help deal with the COVID situation at this time,” he said.

“What I’m saying is that we have to [these measures] will be needed in March, people will be able to judge the actions we take after the election when and if we form government, based on the policy we present…

“There are things in this document that are needed right now, that we shouldn’t have to wait for an election to bring them in, because South Australians need those things now. But we certainly believe that if the current government does not act in a reasonable and necessary way, it will be our responsibility to do so and to announce these actions before the election.

With the government saying the Omicron outbreak will peak later this month, Malinauskas said he would welcome the opportunity to debate other issues ahead of Election Day.

‘COVID is topical – COVID is important to the lives of South Australians at this time,’ he said.

“So many SA lives have been turned upside down as a result of the decision to let the virus in without the proper planning in place [but] as the number of cases decreases, I sincerely hope this allows the state to have an in-depth conversation about its hopes and ambitions for the future.

He said the pandemic had revealed a “dark underbelly” of inequality “that has been exacerbated in an economic context”.

“For someone who doesn’t have an asset in the form of a house or massive investments in the stock market, it’s now much more difficult for them to afford a house,” he said.

“I want a serious public policy debate leading up to the election on these important issues. [but] insofar as COVID is an issue, we will come to the election with a COVID policy.

Marshall’s office was contacted for comment, which ultimately came via Treasurer Rob Lucas.

“In times of crisis, the last thing in the world the state needs when some guy is releasing unencrypted thought bubbles,” he said.

“At some point someone has to seriously ask people two months from an election: what is the real cost?”

He said providing the universal supply of free RATs would cost the state $100 million every 10 weeks, and even the most modest deployment requested today would be a significant financial tax.

On public health briefings during the caretaker government, Lucas said the government would receive a briefing from the Prime Minister’s Department and act on that advice.

“Whatever acting conventions have been observed in the past, they must be observed during this particular interim period,” he said.

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