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Return to school delayed as consumers snap wallets shut over virus fears

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A return to primary school is likely to be delayed as the Queensland Government steps up its fight to contain the latest wave of Covid-19 sweeping the state.

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The move comes as figures reveal spending in Australia has collapsed since the start of the year as consumers shy away from retail and restaurants because of fears relating to the Omicron variant.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there was likely to be a one to two week delay in relation to return to primary school depending on modelling currently being compiled, with a concrete decision to be made within days.

“I just want to assure parents that is definitely not on the agenda – just sending primary school children unvaccinated to school if we are in the peak of this wave,” she said.

She also revealed the state’s disaster management group would stand up from next week to help deal with an expected rapid escalation in the number of Queenslanders contracting Covid-19.

The Government also plans to set up a hotline for Queenslanders to report positive rapid antigen test.

Ms Palaszczuk revealed the state recorded 10,953 new cases of Covid-19 but said his was unlikely to be the true figure and strongly urged people to work from home if they can and avoid going out to social gatherings

“There is absolutely more (cases) out there because of people getting a positive test at home,” she said.

“We’re asking you to minimise your going out for essentially the next six weeks.

“That’s not a big ask when you’ve seen countries around the world that have endured up to a year of lockdown.”

She said Queensland was confronting a “short, sharp wave” of Covid-19 that would test the resilience of the state.

“Can I stress to employers if you do not need people working in the city at the moment, please work from home,” she said.

“This will help slow down this wave, but I don’t think this message has been getting out very clearly to employees.”

There were now people 327 in hospital with Covid-19, with 14 in intensive care including three on ventilation, she said.

The ANZ’s spending analysis released on Friday morning is likely to be bad news for the national economy which is already facing downgrades from economists.

The ANZ found weekly spending for the week to January 5 was at its lowest level since the Delta lockdowns.

“Caution about being in public places is being compounded by staff shortages to stifle spending across dining, retail and travel,” economist Adelaide Timbrell said.

“ANZ-observed spending has also fallen sharply in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia since the Christmas trading period, with spending in all states a little lower than 2021’s out-of-lockdown levels.

“Dining spending in Queensland and Western Australia resembles previous lockdown conditions, while non-food retail spending outside Victoria and New South Wales is closer to out-of-lockdown times in 2021.”

Citi has already cut Australia’s economic growth forecast by a full percentage point because of concerns relating to Omicron.

Meanwhile, elective surgeries are expected to be postponed in NSW as that state reports another 38,625 COVID-19 cases and eleven deaths in the past 24 hours.

The numbers to 8pm Thursday take the state’s three-day total past 100,000 and cases in the past fortnight to 262,000.

The number of people in hospital rose 129 to 1738, including 134 in intensive care (up by three).

A hotline and online reporting have opened for Victorians who test positive to a COVID-19 rapid antigen test to report their “probable” case.

It is mandatory to report positive RAT results from Friday, a day when the state recorded 21,728 new cases from 68,202 tests through the PCR lab test system.

Another six people have died and hospitalisations have again increased to 644 people.

Tasmania has recorded a four-digit coronavirus daily case figure for the first time, with the island state reporting 1489 new infections.

The number, almost double the 751 cases reported on Thursday, brings the number of active infections to 4681.

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