TUESDAY, March 24
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state is at a “critical stage” in the fight against coronavirus, after 149 new infections in 24 hours pushed the state’s total past 800.
And in Queensland, schools are staying open but teachers over the age of 60 have been advised to avoid classrooms, reports the ABC.
At 8pm last night, there were 818 confirmed COVID-19 cases in NSW.
Ms Berejiklian described the increase as “substantial”, and Chief Medical Officer for NSW Dr Kerry Chant said authorities were seeing an “incredible burden in our recently returned overseas travellers” within the rising numbers.
“We have 425 that are overseas-acquired,” she said.
“It is essential to protect the broader community, and those that you love, to maintain that self-isolation.”
Ms Berejiklian warned those disobeying self-isolation rules that “there are harsh penalties and we’ll enforce that.”
But, she said, “based on health advice, we don’t know what the next five or six weeks will look like”.
Some experts are concerned about a growing number of COVID-19 cases are proving untraceable, a figure up by about 500 per cent between March 14 and 22.
The Premier rebuffed criticism of yesterday’s directive to keep school children home if possible, saying she does not regret any of her decisions to date.
“Schools stay open. If you need to send your child to school, schools stay open,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“However, we are recommending at this time that parents keep their children at home.
“Good government means prudent planning, it means making sure you have a no-regrets policy. And I have a no-regrets policy.”
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the absentee rate across NSW schools last week was 41 per cent, an increase from the average of 8 per cent.
The Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) said it was worried about the risk to vulnerable staff and flagged industrial action if state schools were not closed by Wednesday.
Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young advised teachers in the “at-risk” demographic should “not work in direct contact with groups of children”, particularly if they had health issues.
“For anyone who’s over the age of 60, with one or more chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, they should be concerned and they shouldn’t be coming into contact with large numbers of people whether they be children or anyone else,” Dr Young said.
The Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) said about 18,300 teachers across the state were over the age of 60.
QTU president Kevin Bates said Queensland schools were already seeing an increase in teachers in the “at-risk” age category not turning up to work.
“They are also going to their doctors and getting the advice that they should not be in the workplace,” he said.
Meanwhile the UK will go into lockdown for at least three weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tough new measures to try to curb the spread of coronavirus.
From Monday night local time, Britons will only be allowed to leave their homes once a day for exercise, to shop for essential items like food, for any medical needs or to help a vulnerable person.
They can also travel to work but only if it is necessary and it cannot be done from home.
All shops selling non-essential goods will shut and gatherings of more than two people will be banned.
“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home,” Mr Johnson said, speaking to the UK in a pre-recorded statement.
“Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.
“If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”
Deaths from the virus in the UK jumped 54 to 335 on Monday, with more than 6,700 confirmed cases of infection.
Source: ABC News
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