Aussie schools to remain open amid coronavirus outbreak

·7-min read

Cases of coronavirus in Australia have continued to soar with sporting competitions and major events cancelled, but schools will continue to run as normal.

As of Sunday, NSW has 134 confirmed cases of the virus while Victoria has 49.

Tasmania has confirmed its sixth coronavirus case after a woman in her 60s tested positive.

She was identified as a close contact during the public health investigation of a previous Tasmanian case, who had recently travelled overseas, acting director of public health Scott McKeown said on Sunday.

The woman and all the other five cases in Tasmania are in a stable condition and remain in isolation receiving medical care.

Nineteen people in South Australia have coronavirus while WA has 14 and Queensland has 46.

People out in the suburb of Chatswood during the middle of the morning.
Residents walk about in Chatswood in Sydney's north. Source: Getty Images

Calls for schools to close

The Morrison government warned all options are on the table to help tackle the spread of the coronavirus, which may include school closures in the future and even a complete lockdown of the country similar to Italy, France and Spain.

"Everything is up for consideration," Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told ABC television's Insiders Program on Sunday.

However Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Sunday schools would remain open for the time being.

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace told ABC News on Sunday schools in the sunshine state should remain open on Monday.

"If there is a need to close individual schools [over COVID-19], these decisions will be made quickly, based on further advice from health experts," Ms Grace told the ABC.

"As in other disaster and emergency management events, the department has online learning materials and virtual classroom capability that can be used by schools where appropriate to support sustained curriculum delivery.”

She added the decision was made after advice from the Chief Medical Officer.

Epping Boys' High School is pictured.
Epping Boys' High School shut its doors after a student tested positive for coronavirus. Source: Getty Images

The new national cabinet to deal with COVID-19 were came together via a phone hook-up at midday on Sunday.

The weekly gathering was agreed at Friday's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting and is made up of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the six premiers and two chief ministers, as well as key federal ministers and medical experts like Professor Murphy.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC’s Insiders the question of school closures would be very much guided by medical advice as the number of virus cases in Australia rises above 250.

Prof Murphy said he did not want to move too early on something like that because of the risk of taking parents out of the workforce to look after their children, particularly if they are in the health and medical sector.

"One of the interesting and positive aspects of this virus is that there have been very few reports of symptomatic infection in children," he said.

"What we don't know is whether children are getting infected but just don't get symptoms. They can still spread it or they're not getting infected. The former is probably more likely."

A customer wearing a protective mask sits in a cafe during lunch time in the Crows Nest suburb of Sydney.
A man wears a mask at a cafe in Crows Nest in Sydney. Source: Getty Images

He felt next week's federal parliamentary sitting should go ahead after meeting with its presiding officers on Saturday, who are looking at a range of measures to reduce the number of people in the building including staff and visitors.

Australians more broadly are being urged to play their part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus as part of a national campaign.

A letter from Mr Morrison, Mr Hunt and Prof Murphy ran in newspapers across the country on Sunday, along with the latest information on COVID-19.

It urges people to wash their hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes, and dispose of tissues, and avoid contact with others if they're feeling unwell.

A message reading 'Wash hands' seen in the sky over Sydney amid an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Skywriting in Sydney's skies tells people to practise good hygiene. Source: Getty Images

"Australia has one of the best health systems in the world with some of the most dedicated and experienced health professionals," the letter reads.

"Containing the spread of an infection like COVID-19 comes down to every Australian playing their part by looking after their own hygiene, looking out for each other, and staying informed."

A ‘bright star’ fades

The NSW Government announced the cancellation of Vivid 2020 on Sunday.

The annual light and music show, which was set to commence on May 22 this year and run until mid-June, was shut down after recommendations from the Federal Government.

“Vivid Sydney is a bright star of Sydney’s event calendar so the decision to cancel was not taken lightly. As the event owner, we must follow the advice of health officials to ensure the health and safety of our citizens and everyone involved with Vivid Sydney,” Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said in a statement.

It follows the cancellation of Sydney’s annual Royal Easter Show which was announced late last week.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are seen during Vivid Sydney in 2019.
Vivid has been cancelled for 2020. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Geelong Grammar shuts its doors

Students at Australia's most expensive private school will finish their first term early this week amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

Geelong Grammar School principal Rebecca Cody sent out a message to families and friends on Saturday saying the school will be cutting the term short at its four campuses.

Ms Cody said the school's leadership has taken into account that they are Australia's largest co-educational boarding school, with 900 students from every state and territory, and 16 foreign countries.

All classrooms and boarding residences will close by Wednesday, rather than the scheduled end of term on March 27.

"Given we currently remain an infection-free site, this decision gives families time to prepare calmly for collection of their children," Ms Cody said.

A child raises his hand in a classroom.
Some schools may be forced to close due to coronavirus. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Victoria's Supreme Court and County Court have also taken the unprecedented step of suspending all new jury trials indefinitely amid the spread of the illness.

It will halt the empanelment process, in which hundreds of potential jurors gather at court, Victorian Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said on Saturday.

"This precautionary decision was made after consideration of the latest expert health and government advice and recognises that members of the community may hold concerns about attending court in large groups," she said in a statement.

The latest 13 cases of the virus in Victoria include 11 men and two women aged between 20 and 69.

One person has been admitted to hospital and is in a stable condition but the others are recovering at home in isolation, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Saturday.

COVID-19 shakes Apple stores to their core

Apple CEO Tim Cook said no retail stores will be open outside of Greater China until March 27.

“In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China," he said.

"That means team members should work remotely if their job allows."

Mixed news for sporting events

The 2020 Super Rugby season has grinded to a halt while AFL fans won’t be able to attend the season opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.

The AFL said it’s prepared for matches to be played without spectators for the foreseeable future.

But SANZAAR, the governing body for Super Rugby, announced late on Saturday night there is “no option” but to suspend its 2020 season.

Alex Mafi of the Reds takes on the defence during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Bulls in Brisbane, Australia.
The 2020 Super Rugby season has been suspended due to COVID-19. Source: Getty Images

"We are extremely disappointed for the players, our fans, broadcasters and partners but given the complexity of our competition structure, and the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives. We also believe it is time for all those players currently overseas to return home and to be with their families,” CEO Andy Marinos said.

The NRL announced on Sunday its competition would go ahead behind closed doors after the conclusion of round one.

Round two kicks off on Thursday without spectators.

with AAP

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