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LIVE: COVID-19 latest updates: April 3

With a constant stream of information and misinformation about COVID-19 (coronavirus) circulating, Echonetdaily will endeavour to update this page as news come to hand.

Updated April 3, 9am

Two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWHD) as of 8pm, Wednesday, 1 April. This brings the total in the region, that runs from Clarence to the border at Tweed Heads, to 44.

‘Of the NNSWLHD cases, there are currently 2 COVID-19 patients being cared for in our hospitals,’ Wayne Jones, Chief Executive NNSWLHD said.

Thirty-eight of the cases were acquired overseas, two were in contact with  known cases o in a known cluster, two have no contact identified, and two are still under investigation.

Byron Hospital COVID-19 Clinic

A new COVID-19 clinic was opened at Byron Central Hospital yesterday to facilitate the free testing of backpackers and travellers who are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

The free clinic welcomes backpackers in the Byron Shire who have any COVID-19-like symptoms,’ said a spokesperson for Byron Shire Council.

‘Backpackers with symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, headache, cough, runny nose or shortness of breath should, even if the symptoms are mild, isolate themselves from others and present to the clinic which is a free service.’

Byron clinic open seven days a week

The clinic is open from 10am till 4pm, seven days a week.

Anyone who has respiratory symptoms or fever who meet one of more of the following criteria can attend the clinic:

  •  A close contact of a confirmed case
  • International travel in the 14 days prior to illness onset
  •  A cruise ship passenger or crew member who has travelled in the 14 days prior to illness onset
  • A health worker, aged care or other residential care worker
  • In a geographically-localised area with elevated risk of community transmission.

 People do not need to phone ahead to attend the clinic.

For advice and information about COVID-19 visit NSW Health.

People who require translating or interpreting services should call 131 450.

For health related advice, please continue to liaise with your GP, or phone HealthDirect on 1800 022 222.

Updated April 2, 6pm

Changes to hospital visiting hours

Visiting hours at hospitals in the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) have been reduced from 3 April in response to the continuing COVID-19 crisis.

In light of the most recent social distancing requirements, NNSWLHD has further revised its visitor restrictions and screening for people coming to our hospitals,’ said Wayne Jones, Chief Executive NNSWLHD.

From Friday, 3 April there will be a limit of one (1) visitor per patient in all NNSWLHD hospitals. This person is to be identified by the patient in consultation with their family or carer.

Visiting hours have also been restricted to one (1) hour, once (1) per day and they can now only take place between 1pm and 6pm daily. Visits can only take place in the patients room.

A patient’s designated visitor will be provided with detailed information regarding social distancing and must adhere to all personal protective and hand hygiene requirements already in place when on site,’ said Mr Jones.

‘The designated visitor will be screened prior to each visit.’

Upon entering a facility, as a precautionary measure, visitors will be asked:

  • Have you returned from overseas in the past 14 days?
  • Have you had close contact with a person confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19?
  • Are you feeling unwell with any flu-like symptoms?

 Anyone answering yes to any of these questions will not be permitted to enter.

The current restrictions in Maternity/Women’s Care Units and Birthing Suites remain at one (1) support person per birth, with no other visitors while in hospital,’ continued Mr Jones.

‘NSW Health supports the World Health Organisation and Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) recommendations that one chosen support person should accompany a woman giving birth.

‘Multi-Purpose Services have their own restrictions which are one designated visitor once (1) per day for 15 minutes.

‘We accept that these measures may cause concern for some patients and community members, but the restrictions are in place to protect our hospital system, our patients, our staff and the wider community, especially those in vulnerable age groups.

‘We encourage everyone to continue with social distancing and isolation measures, and thank our community for their vigilance to date.

‘Visitors, carers and family members should speak with the nurse in charge about any extenuating circumstances.’

 Updated April 2, 8.30am 

Four new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) as of 8pm Tuesday, 31 March. This brings the total cases in the NNSWLHD to 42.

Responding to the crisis NNSWLHD is opening a a new COVID-19 clinic at Byron Central Hospital. The clinic will be open seven days s twee from 10am till 4pm daily.

The likely sources of infection are: thirty-six cases were acquired overseas, two were through contact with a confirmed case or in a known cluster, two were contact not identified and two are still currently under investigation.

‘The Public Health Unit is following up close contacts of cases who are located within NNSWLHD, who are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days from last contact with the confirmed case,’ said Mr Jones.

‘They will be contacted daily to check that they are well and anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms will be tested for the virus. If you are considered a close contact of a confirmed case, a Health officer will contact you directly.’

For advice and information about COVID-19 visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx

Residents of NSW can also call new the 24-hour COVID-19 hotline on 13 77 88 for advice and support on non-health related enquiries.

For health related advice, please continue to liaise with your GP, or phone HealthDirect on 1800 022 222.

Updated March 31, 10.30am

Major changes to waste disposal – Lismore

‘The World Health Organisation has confirmed studies that the COVID-19 virus can exist on surfaces for several days in favourable environments where it is undisturbed – this would potentially include metal, plastic and timber surfaces, and things like food waste, bottles, furniture and mattresses,’ said  Mr Jeuken.

‘This represents an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of the community and our critical workers that are required to keep this service going throughout the life of the pandemic.

‘We have made a decision that staff will no longer handle any waste materials and we will limit contact with customers. Visitors attending the facility will be directed to a location for unloading their waste and it will then be moved by machine into skips.”

Residents without a kerbside waste collection service are asked to ensure their waste is securely contained, wrapped or bagged and the contents it not able to spill once dropped off.

Residents that have a kerbside waste collection service should not visit any of Council’s waste facilities until further notice.

New operating hours are also now in place to allow for additional cleaning of the facilities. The Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre will be open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 3pm and the Nimbin Transfer Station will be open Monday to Friday from 8am to 3pm.

No hazardous wastes will be accepted until further notice at these facilities and visitors will be required to pay using electronic payment – cash will not be accepted until further notice.

The Lismore Revolve Shop, the Container Deposit Scheme bulk collection centre, Brewster Street Drop-off Centre and the Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens are all closed indefinitely.

To make a booking, phone Council on 1300 87 83 87. Callers will need a vehicle registration number and home address they can verify with current ID.

COVID-19 Information and Updates
Council’s COVID-19 Information and Updates page has the latest information and advice about changes to Council facilities and services. The page also contains important links to useful websites and fact sheets on assistance for residents and businesses. Residents can ask staff questions online via the Q&A function, view ongoing news updates, and join the community forum to share stories and experiences.


Updated March 31, 8.20am

Keeping Australia functioning

The Prime Minister’s office has been delivering media release after media release with COVID-19 keeping government press and PR writers working around the clock.

The most recent news is that the Australian governments met yesterday as the National Cabinet to take further action to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says that we will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow the spread of this virus must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives.

‘We need to ensure Australia keeps functioning, to keep Australians in jobs.’

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy provided an update on the measures underway on the latest data and medical advice in relation to coronavirus.

‘There are more than 4,200 confirmed cases in Australia and sadly 18 people have died.

‘Of the newly reported cases in the last week, the majority have been from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

National Cabinet noted that the vast majority of cases in Australia are imported from overseas or are locally acquired contacts of a confirmed case.

‘Testing keeps Australians safe.’ said Dr Murphy. ‘Australia has one of the most rigorous coronavirus testing systems in the world with more than 238,000 tests completed.’

National Cabinet noted the successful implementation of enhanced border measures including the 14-day mandatory quarantine period for international travellers.

Stay at home unless doing limited essential activities

The Chief Medical Officer advice is that following the scaled-up social distancing measures over the last week, Australia has now achieved significant behavioural change and that the message to ‘stay at home unless doing limited essential activities’ is being heeded.

It is clear the epidemiology curve is beginning to flatten. But it is too early to determine whether such movements will be significant or sustained.

Stronger adherence to social distancing and new quarantine arrangements for returned travellers will take a number of days to show maximum effect.

The biggest single concern remains the evidence of cases where there are no known local links.

The Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury also provided an overview of the economic outlook and the medium and longer-term financial risks.

National Cabinet strongly endorsed the Commonwealth’s JobKeeper package and urged its support through the Commonwealth Parliament to provide much needed financial support to the Australian economy. They noted that the medium and long-term financial risks were manageable.

National Cabinet agreed to meet again on Friday 3 April 2020.

National Baseline Restrictions

Following agreement of a national baseline for social distancing and business restrictions, National Cabinet agreed to adopt the advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) that:

  • Supports the long-term nationwide maintenance and enforcement of the restrictions currently in place;
  • Local circumstances may prompt states and territories to introduce additional measures for a period to further control community transmission; and
  • Local decisions should be on the advice of the local Chief Health Officer informed by the local epidemiology at the time.

The factors influencing such a recommendation include consideration of:

  • the overall number of new cases, and particularly the rate of change
  • the proportion of locally acquired cases without known links to other cases
  • multiple outbreaks in vulnerable populations, including remote Indigenous communities and residential aged care facilities
  • capacity of laboratory testing and the health system to respond to current and predicted load.

Clarifications – Vulnerable people in the workplace

National Cabinet endorsed the AHPPC advice on vulnerable people in the workplace, specifically that the following people are, or are likely to be, at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with the virus:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • People 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions. Conditions included in the definition of ‘chronic medical conditions’ will be refined as more evidence emerges.
  • People 70 years and older
  • People with compromised immune systems (see Department of Health website).

National Cabinet noted that the new AHPPC advice on the higher risk categories for people 65 years and older with chronic conditions had changed based on more up to date medical advice.

In addition, National Cabinet endorsed the AHPPC advice that:

  • Where vulnerable workers undertake essential work, a risk assessment must be undertaken. Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated with consideration of the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. This includes ensuring vulnerable people are redeployed to non-customer based roles where possible. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and employees should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence.
  • Special provisions apply to essential workers who are at higher risk of serious illness and, where the risk cannot be sufficiently mitigated, should not work in high risk settings.
  • Excluding healthcare settings where appropriate PPE and precautions are adhered to, the AHPPC considers that, given the transmission characteristics of the virus, the following settings are at higher risk of outbreaks of coronavirus –  correctional and detention facilities and group residential settings.

The AHPPC advice is that there is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women.

Air and port Crew

Aviation and maritime crew continue to provide an essential service in ensuring that Australians can return home, and that essential movements of critical goods and supplies continue.

National Cabinet re-confirmed that:

  • International flight crew are granted a concession from the mandatory 14 day quarantine requirements for individuals arriving in Australia. This is in recognition of their extensive training in infection prevention and control and use of personal protective equipment, whereby the risk from these individuals is considered to be lower than other international travellers. Air crew will continue to practise social distancing, cough etiquette and hand hygiene.
  • Maritime crew are granted a concession from the mandatory 14 day quarantine requirements. These crew members already practice self-quarantine on arrival in Australia and between movements in and out of the country. These arrangements should continue to apply, and as with air crew, maritime crew will continue to practise social distancing, cough etiquette and hand hygiene.

Truck Stops

National Cabinet agreed that truck stops can remain open with social distancing and hygiene measures in place, to the satisfaction of local state and territory health authorities.

Quarantine arrangements for vulnerable travellers

National Cabinet agreed that state and territory governments can consider exceptional circumstance exemptions to the requirement to serve the mandatory 14 day self isolation in a hotel or other facility, so as to enable vulnerable or at-risk individuals to self isolate (for 14 days) at home – including for minors or those with medical conditions, such as those returning to Australia from the Medical Treatment Overseas Program.

Early Childhood and Childcare

Previous advice on schools has not changed. National Cabinet agreed to consider arrangements for early childhood and childcare facilities at their next meeting on Friday 3rd April 2020.

Commercial and residential tenancies

National Cabinet agreed to consider advice from Treasurers on commercial and residential tenancies at their next meeting on Friday 3rd April 2020.


Updated March 30, 9.25am

Police Commissioner urges quarantine compliance

There have been several cases of people not complying with the new quarantine rules and police have been conducting COVID-19 related compliance checks in all capital cities and many other areas across the country.

Yesterday State Emergency Operations Controller, NSW Police Force Commissioner Mick Fuller, urged community compliance after mandatory quarantine measures came.

From yesterday (Sunday 29 March 2020), anyone entering Australia is subject to a ministerial direction requiring them to self-isolate immediately on arrival for 14 days.

NSW Police Force is working with a number of state and federal agencies including NSW Health, Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Defence Force (ADF), to ensure this direction is adhered to.

Read more…


Updated March 29, 8.25am

Federal Government update on COVID-19

After yet more National Cabinet meetings responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Australian governments are imposing further restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister held a media conference late yesterday to outline the latest update.


COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test available in Australia by early April

This morning Cellmid Limited, who describe themselves as an Australian life sciences company, announced it has signed an agreement to supply the COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) to Australia, with products expected to arrive in the country by early April.

A company release says the rapid COVID-19 test delivers results fast, anywhere between three to 15 minutes, and requires no laboratory equipment. The small finger prick test does not require the use of PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) equipment, one of the limiting factors in widescale testing.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Australia has conducted just over 190,000 tests. The pathology system is limited by not only the availability of PCR equipment, but also by lack of reagents. Rapid tests are important to remove this bottleneck.

Cellmid CEO Maria Halasz said social distancing is absolutely critical, as is learning from countries that managed the coronavirus infections well, such as Singapore and South Korea. ‘These countries conducted widespread COVID-19 testing, isolated positives and provided early treatment. They not only controlled the spread of infection, they saved lives and medical resources.

‘Our agreement allows for one of the fastest available COVID-19 tests to be made available for testing in Australia at scale. However, international demand for these tests is accelerating exponentially and to ensure ongoing supply over the next six months we need to act immediately. The benefit to the Australian health system could be enormous.’

Ms Halasz said the RDT tests have a critical role to play in flattening the infection curve. They are economically competitive against other COVID-19 tests, which take much longer and require specialist laboratory equipment and medical skills.

‘The COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test ordered by Cellmid and arriving in Australia in early April 2020, is approved by the NMPA in China and has received the CE mark on 5 March 2020 and was approved by the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) on 25 March 2020.

 ‘The same rapid diagnostic test is already used in several countries including the UK, Belgium, Spain and Germany.  It is produced in a TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) approved facility in China.

COVID-19 rapid test a small disposable kit

The COVID-19 rapid test is a small disposable kit that uses a lateral flow colloidal gold-based detection method against viral specific IgG/IgM, delivering results in as little as three minutes without requiring any laboratory equipment.  Most other available COVID-19 tests make use of PCR technology to detect viral RNA which requires skilled technicians, takes several hours to produce a result and is limited in throughput by the availability of specific laboratory equipment. 

The rapid diagnostic test is stable at room temperature (2-30˚C) for up to one year which, combined with its ease of use, makes it an attractive option for regional testing or for mobile/rapid screening centers.

The test consists of a small device that requires only 10 microliter of patient serum or plasma, or 20 microliter of whole blood, to be loaded into a receptacle, alongside an included buffer, which then migrate along the device to an area of immobilized viral S protein fragments.  If virus specific IgG or IgM is present, conjugates are formed, which show up as a distinctive red band on the device.  Results are typically seen within three to 15 minutes, depending on the quantity of IgG/IgM in the blood.

Clinical validation studies making use of over 500 clinical samples have shown specificity of 99.57% and a sensitivity of 86.43% on day 3 and 95% on day 5 from symptoms.  Cross comparison of PCR based testing with the device showed a 93.41% coincidence, proving that the device is positioned as an excellent rapid screening tool.   Technical validation studies have shown no cross-reactivity with major respiratory pathogens, no interference from common biological confounders and a kit to kit and intrasample precision of 100%.

 


Updated March 27, 4.40pm

There were three new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in residents of the Northern NSW Local Health District as of 8pm Thursday, 26 March. This brings the District’s total to 25.

The confirmed cases are spread across the length of the Northern NSW Local Health District, from Clarence right up to the Tweed Valley.

The new cases are:

Case 23 – in home isolation after returning from overseas

Case 24 – in home isolation, after returning from overseas

Case 25 – in home isolation, after returning from overseas

The Public Health Unit is following up close contacts of cases who are located within NNSWLHD, who are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days from last contact with the confirmed case.

They will be contacted daily to check that they are well and anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms will be tested for the virus.

If you are considered a close contact of a confirmed case, a Health officer will contact you directly.

The cases for NNSWLHD include:

16 overseas acquired cases

2 contacts of a confirmed case/ or in a known cluster

2 contact not identified

5 under investigation – source unknown

Of these previous 22 cases, 19 are currently in self-isolation at home and two are in

hospital. One person is considered to have recovered.

Updated March 26, 6.15pm

There were five new cases of COVID-19 confirmed as of 8pm Thursday, 26 March in the Northern NSW Local Health District. This brings the District’s total to 22.

The new cases are:

Case 18 – currently not residing in Northern NSW LHD, in home isolation

Case 19 – in home isolation after returning from overseas

Case 20 – in home isolation after returning from overseas

Case 21 – in home isolation, source currently being investigated

Case 22 – in home isolation, source currently being investigated

‘The Public Health Unit is following up close contacts of cases who are located within NNSWLHD, who are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days from last contact with the confirmed case,’ said Wayne Jones, Chief Executive NNSWLHD.

‘They will be contacted daily to check that they are well and anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms will be tested for the virus. If you are considered a close contact of a confirmed case, a Health officer will contact you directly.’

The majority of cases, 15, have been acquired overseas two contacts of a confirmed case or in a known cluster, for two the origin of the use cannot be identified and there are three under investigation and the source is currently unknown.

‘Of these previous 17 cases, 14 are currently in self-isolation at home and two are in hospital. One person is considered to have recovered,’ said Mr Jones.

COVID clinics for those with symptoms

COVID-19/flu clinics are established at The Tweed Hospital, Lismore Base Hospital and Grafton Base Hospital, open from 10am to 6pm daily.

‘These clinics are for those most at risk with respiratory symptoms or fever, those returning from overseas or in contact with a COVID-19 case, or people like our health workers,’ said Mr Jones.

‘It is vital that these respiratory clinics are not overwhelmed with people who are not in the high risk groups, which could result in delays identifying those most vulnerable.

‘People without symptoms do not need to be tested. The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, headache, runny nose, or shortness of breath. Anyone with symptoms should isolate themselves from others.’

For advice and information about COVID-19 visit the NSW Health website on infectious disease. Residents of NSW can also call new the 24-hour COVID-19 hotline on 13 77 88 for advice and support on non-health related enquiries. For health related advice, please continue to liaise with your GP, or phone HealthDirect on 1800 022 222.

COVID-19 update – Byron Shire Council responses 27 March

Byron Shire Council is continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Monday, 30 March the Council offices will be closed to the public, however, staff will be available online to answer and help with questions and queries about all services including development applications, parking and rates.

Council has also extended its Debt Management and Financial Hardship Policy to include businesses.

Main Beach at Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads beach will closed this weekend with Surf Lifesaving NSW announcing volunteer patrols have ceased.

Main Beach will however be patrolled by paid lifeguards Monday to Friday next week subject to direction from the NSW and Australian Governments.  Council will also investigate options for ongoing weekend lifeguard services.

‘On behalf of Council I take this opportunity to thank the volunteers from the Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay Surf Clubs for their service over the summer because they really do a magnificent job,’ Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, said.

Other recent changes to Council services include:

  • Council’s offices will close to the public on Monday 30 March.  Staff will be available to respond to telephone enquires about the full range of Council services including development applications, rates, waste and parking.
  • The wetlands at the Byron Bay Sewage Treatment Plant are closed to the public.
  • Playgrounds and skateparks in the Shire are closed.

More information on the impact of COVID-19:

Updated March 26, 1.30pm

An email that is circulating on COVID-19 stating that it is advice from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital is a fake.

The Queensland Governments helath websites states, ‘We’re aware of an email circulating on social media and across the community containing incorrect information. This is not from Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and the details it provides are untrue. Please stay up to date and informed through legitimate sources, such as our official Metro North channels, including this site and our Facebook, and the Queensland Health website.’

Updated March 26, 11.20am

Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) have confirmed that unless there is an ongoing risk to public health they are not releasing the locations of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As has been occurring since the outbreak of COVID-19, and in line with national protocols, NSW Health promptly notifies the public of any locations, including on public transport, where there has been a risk of infection. This is so members of the public can monitor their symptoms and seek medical assistance if they become unwell,’ said a spokesperson for NNSWLHD. 

‘In addition, NSW Health takes proactive steps to contact all close contacts of the patient, including family members and co-workers, to give them advice on isolation, symptoms to be aware of and their level of risk. Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 and their close contacts are either being treated in hospital or are in self-isolation to ensure there is no ongoing risk of infection to others in the community.

Locations where these cases live, work or have visited do not pose any ongoing risk to the public. Publishing private details, such as the location of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, is a breach of patient privacy and serves no public health benefit.’

It has been confirmed that the majority of cases of coronavirus in our region are from overseas visitors.

New information is available on the NSW Health website COVID-19 latest showing clusters of locally-acquired cases in various Local Government Areas, and info on testing numbers/cases for all Local Health Districts.

Ibuprofen not currently considered a risk

Rumours that Ibuprofen and Avril products increase the risk of COVID-19 have been considered by the Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration who have stated:

‘The TGA is aware of anecdotal reports circulating in the media of an association between the use of ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID) and worse outcomes in patients with COVID-19.

‘We have investigated this safety concern and found that there is currently no published peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support a direct link between use of ibuprofen and more severe infection with COVID-19.

We will continue to monitor this issue.’

Updated March 26, 9am

As of 4pm yesterday, March 25, there were no new cases or COVID-19 in the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD).

Updated March 25, 1.15 pm

Ten new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed within the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) in the space of 24 hours, bringing the District’s total to 17 cases.

The confirmed cases to date are spread across the length of the Local Health District, from Clarence right up to the Tweed Valley.

We’d like to thank those who have been cooperating with our Public Health Officers to date, working with our staff and self-isolating correctly at home.

We can’t emphasise enough how important it is for all our community to heed the advice of authorities in efforts to slow the transmission of the virus.

It’s critical to adhere to self-isolation guidelines if you’ve been instructed by health authorities or mandated to quarantine as a result of overseas travel.

For general members of the public, the most important things you can do at the moment are:

  • practising good hygiene – hand washing or sanitising, and coughing/sneezing into a tissue which you then discard
  • staying at home if you’re sick
  • minimising close contact with others by following the social distancing measures.

It’s also important to remember that locations where cases live, work or have visited don’t pose an ongoing risk to members of the public. If you are considered a close contact of a confirmed case, a Health officer will contact you directly.

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Nationwide crackdown on social gatherings expanded

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new restrictions late on Tuesday following a National Cabinet conference call with state and territory leaders.

He said the changes were necessary to functions identified as “major transmitting events”.

From midnight on Wednesday, these activities and businesses will no longer be allowed to continue:

  • Amusement parks and arcades
  • Indoor and outdoor play centres
  • Community and recreation centres, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities, saunas, wellness centres
  • Public swimming pools
  • Galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites, libraries, community centres
  • Auction houses
  • Real estate auctions and open house inspections
  • In-store beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlours, spa and massage parlours (excluding allied-health-related services, like physiotherapy)
  • Food courts within shopping centres will only be able to sell takeaway. Shopping centres themselves will remain open

 

Updated March 25, 11.40 am

Uki Refugee Project cancels all upcoming events, including proposed Friendship Visit.

All funds raised by the Project’s previous concert and BBQ have been donated to the Romero Centre in Brisbane to help those in need.

If you would like to be able to continue to help refugees and asylum seekers in some small way, the Romero Centre is currently in urgent need of donated goods. Click here to see what items will help them the most.

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Qld border closure update from Tweed Shire Council:

The border will close at 1.01am tomorrow (Thursday)

There will initially be three access points into Queensland – on the M1, Gold Coast Highway and Griffith Street with RBT-style checks carried out. All other roads which access Queensland will be closed with roadblocks. These arrangements could change.

The restrictions still allow people to undertake essential travel between their residence and place of work, freight, medical needs, court requirements, for schools and childcare, compassionate grounds, other essential needs, and for those who straddle the border.

According to the Queensland Government advice, travel should be limited or minimised as much as possible. This also applies for people who live in Queensland and work in NSW.

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Mullum Pool Closes Today

The 50m pool at Mullumbimby will close its doors at 5pm today for the season.

The pool has still had a handful of patrons attending over the past week, while adhering to strict hygiene standards.

Pool management hope to reopen in September for the start of the Spring/Sumer season.

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Updated March 24, 7.10am

Byron Shire Council responses to COVID-19 

In response to the evolving situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic Byron Shire Council will this week be closing the Main Beach and Clark’s Beach carparks. 

Council-managed community halls will also close for three months, along with a temporary three-month suspension of all busking licences.

Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, said the decisions have been made in light of the social distancing protocols set out by the Australian and NSW Governments to try to flatten the curve on COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our communities.

‘The carparks at Main Beach and Clark’s Beach are popular gathering points and groups of people continue to park their cars and congregate in these areas and we need to do what we can to stop this from happening.

We also have enormously talented local musicians and with pubs, clubs and venues closed, authorities fear that buskers will be a drawcard for large crowds and while some people might see this as an over-reaction we cannot be too cautious.

Council-managed halls, including the Bangalow A&I Hall and Marvell Hall were closed from 5pm today.

Councillors were today briefed on the current situation including discussions with State Government authorities and the roles of each level of Government plays in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic with Byron Shire.

The further measures that may be taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were also discussed and will be followed up this week. 

‘I would like to take this opportunity to assure the community that Council is well-prepared and will continue its emergency response with a strong focus on the delivery of essential services for the community including water, sewer and infrastructure during the challenges we are facing.

Council’s Crisis Management team has been meeting for weeks, to ensure there is no disruption to essential services.

Council offices and customer service areas remain open for now, with social distancing in place, though we request that people call us or contact us online as much as possible from now on.

‘It is critical, at this uncertain time, for all of us to do what we can in relation to the protocols put in place by the State and Federal authorities and this includes observing the new rules surrounding events and social distancing.’

Council is urging people to seek the latest information about COVID-19 from NSW Health and the Australian Government.

CHANGES TO COUNCIL FACILITIES, SERVICES AND VENUES (as at 5pm 23 March 2020)

Cavanbah Centre – closed

Effective from midday Monday 23 March, Byron Shire’s indoor sporting venue, The Cavanbah Centre will be temporarily closed until further notice.

Community Halls – closed
To adhere to the Australian and NSW Government’s bans on non-essential gatherings, all of the Shire’s community halls are also now closed.

Libraries – closed
Libraries are also closed, along with those in the Lismore, Ballina and Tweed Shires who are also a part of the Richmond Tweed Regional Library.

Lone Goat Gallery – closed

Outdoor pool facilities – open

Byron Shire’s outdoor pools remain open at Mullumbimby and Byron Bay.

Sandhills Childcare Centre – open

Public Toilets – open

For further information on Council-run facilities and services, see the COVID-19 page on our website at: www.byron.nsw.gov.au/Community/Public-health-and-safety/Coronavirus-COVID-19.


New COVID-19 restrictions begin as schools move towards online learning

Gladys Berejiklian and the NSW Government say they have taken significant new steps to increase restrictions across the state – triggering the next level of enforcement necessary to fight COVID-19

Following the decisions made by National Cabinet, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the shutdown to protect NSW citizens.

‘I understand many in the community are worried, and these changes will affect everyday lives, and may be upsetting,’ said Ms Berejiklian.

‘But these decisions will make us all safer, they are taken with the health of all citizens in mind, and they must be taken now.

‘If you have the capacity to work from home, you should do so.’

In line with health advice, from midday today, the following non-essential activities and businesses will be temporarily shut down:

  • Pubs, registered clubs
  • Gyms, indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship (excluding small weddings and funerals that comply with the 4m2 rule, which can proceed).

It is important to note essential gatherings at places such as hospitals, workplaces, constructions sites and for public transport are exempt and will continue.

As confirmed last night by the Prime Minister schools will remain open, based on health advice, which has not changed.

But from tomorrow, in NSW, for practical reasons, parents are encouraged to keep their children at home.

‘Because nearly 30 per cent of children are already being kept out of school, for practical reasons NSW is encouraging parents to keep their children at home,’ said Ms Berejiklian.

‘This will ensure there is only one unit of work, whether the student is at home or at school.

‘No child will be turned away from school.’


Updated March 23, 4.30pm

Two new COVID-19 cases in Northern NSW

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Northern NSW bringing the District’s total to seven today.

Six of the seven confirmed cases are in self-isolation at home and one case is being cared for in hospital.

Chief Executive Local Health District Wayne Jones, (NNSWLHD) says a COVID-19/flu clinic has been established at Grafton Base Hospital, which is open from 10am to 6pm daily.

‘Existing COVID-19/flu clinics at The Tweed Hospital and Lismore Base Hospital are continuing, also open from 10am to 6pm daily.

‘These clinics are for those most at risk with respiratory symptoms or fever, those returning from overseas or in contact with a COVID-19 case, or people like our health workers. It is vital that these respiratory clinics are not overwhelmed with people who are not in the high-risk groups, which could result in delays identifying those most vulnerable.

People without symptoms do not need to be tested

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, headache, runny nose, or shortness of breath. Anyone with symptoms should isolate themselves from others.

Hospital preparedness

Northern NSW Local Health District has plans in place to accommodate patients requiring hospitalisation for COVID-19.

‘We are taking a phased approach, where the first phase of cases will be cared for at Lismore Base Hospital. If further hospitalisations arise, the second phase of patients would be cared for at The Tweed Hospital, and the third phase at Grafton Base.

‘However, in efforts to further reduce the spread of the virus throughout the community, we are now restricting visitors at all our hospitals to two per patient.

‘This is an evolving situation, and this advice may change at short notice.

‘Visitors, carers and family members should speak with the nurse in charge about any extenuating circumstances.

‘We are again urging people to practice social distancing, and self-isolation where required’.


Updated March 22, 11.30pm

Pubs and clubs, hotels, gyms and indoor sporting venues, cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs, restaurants and cafes, religious gatherings in places of worship or funerals – all to remain closed from midday today, Monday March 23.

This is a statement from the office of the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison

National Cabinet agrees to move to more widespread restrictions on social gatherings

Australian governments are focused on working together to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to save lives.

Every extra bit of time allows us to better prepare our health system and put measures in place to protect Australian lives.

We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, allow Australia to keep functioning and keep Australians in jobs. 

The Prime Minister, state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers met on 22 March 2020 as the National Cabinet. They agreed to further actions to support social distancing measures already put in place and protect the Australian community from the spread of coronavirus.

Practicing good hygiene and keeping a healthy physical distance between individuals is our most powerful weapon in fighting this virus and saving lives. The failure of some businesses and members of the public to do this puts people’s lives at risk.

We need every Australian to do their bit to save the lives of other Australians.

Leaders thank those members of the public who are adhering to social distancing measures. However, leaders expressed their disappointment at some members of the community who are disregarding social distancing measures and, by doing so, putting the lives of older and vulnerable Australians at risk.

If we want to slow the spread, everyone must implement appropriate social distancing in accordance with state and territory laws.

Places of social gathering

National Cabinet agreed to move to more widespread restrictions on social gatherings.

Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed to implement, through state and territory laws, new Stage 1 restrictions on social gatherings, to be reviewed on a monthly basis.

Australians should expect these measures to be in place for at least 6 months.

The following facilities will be restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues 
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

Isolated remote community hubs are not included in these restrictions.

Other facilities are not impacted, but will be considered under stage 2 restrictions, if necessary.

These measures also apply to outdoor spaces associated with the above venues.

Leaders noted that these enhanced measures build on existing measures to slow the virus and save lives:

  • No non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside.
  • All non-essential indoor gatherings of less than 100 people must have no more than one person per 4sqm. All Australians should expect their local businesses to be following this rule.
  • Where possible, keep 1.5 metres between yourself and others
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Restrictions on entering aged care homes to protect older Australians

Leaders acknowledged that these new restrictions will change the way we live and expressed deep regret for those business owners and employees who will be impacted. The goal is to reduce the spread of the virus, to flatten the curve and to save the lives of fellow Australians.

State Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed they would give effect to these restrictions through their own legislative processes and make announcements accordingly.

Premiers and Chief Ministers will consider further Stage 2 restrictions if social distancing measures are not adhered to.

Statement on schools

All leaders agreed that children should go to school tomorrow. Leaders agreed that we cannot see children lose an entire year of their education as a result of school closures caused by COVID-19.

Leaders committed to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice that says that it is safe to keep schools open.

Leaders also thanked all teachers and school staff for their support.

State Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed that schools will remain open through to the end of the current school terms to support students whose parents choose to send their children to school. Victoria’s school break will commence on Tuesday 24 March 2020.

All Leaders have committed to re-open schools at the end of the school break, subject to the advice of the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee.

If parents choose to keep their children home from school, parents must be responsible for the conduct of the children and to ensure they adhere to the social distancing arrangements in place. Parents must be aware that while the majority of adults who contract COVID-19 have mild forms of the virus, the elderly or those with co-morbidities can have more significant symptoms.

Schools will be encouraged to provide access to online and distance learning.


Updated March 22, 5pm

Statement from the NSW Premier, Glady Berejiklian

Tonight I will be informing the National Cabinet that NSW will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services.

This will take place over the next 48 hours.

Supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery will be among the many services that will remain open.

Schools will be open tomorrow, though I will have more to say on this issue in the morning.

I will update NSW tomorrow morning about the impacts and our plans following the National Cabinet.


Authorised by  Chief Executive NNSWLHD Wayne Jones.

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) remains at five this weekend.

All confirmed cases are in self-isolation and currently stable.

NNSWLHD is continuing to work closely with our staff, North Coast Primary Health Network, and local GPs, to ensure we have appropriate measures in place for an effective health response to COVID-19.

Testing for COVID-19 is continuing in facilities within NNSWLHD, including COVID-19 flu clinics which have been established at Lismore Base Hospital and The Tweed Hospital. We are considering opening an assessment clinic at Grafton Base Hospital later this week.

However, we stress these clinics are for those most at risk with respiratory symptoms or fever, those returning from overseas or in contact with a COVID-19 case, or people like our health workers. It is vital that these respiratory clinics are not overwhelmed with people who are not in the high risk groups, which could result in delays identifying those most vulnerable.

People without symptoms do not need to be tested

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, headache, runny nose, or shortness of breath. Anyone with symptoms should isolate themselves from others.

All overseas travellers are reminded that they must self-isolate for 14 days on return to Australia, even if you have no symptoms. This is to protect the vulnerable people in our communities from COVID-19. Please follow the home isolation guidance available on the NSW Health website.

NSW Health thanks the community for their cooperation and provision of comprehensive information to NSW Health to allow effective contact tracing.

Identification and isolation of contacts is a critical measure that limits the spread of COVID-19. Compliance with self-isolation by all contacts and returned travellers is essential.

NSW Health is urging people to practice social distancing

NSW Health is urging people to practice social distancing. When social distancing actions are combined with good personal hygiene measures the spread of an epidemic through the community can be slowed. This helps protect the most vulnerable members of the community. It also reduces the impact of the epidemic on essential, life-saving health services by reducing the size of the peak of the epidemic so health services can continue to provide high quality care to all patients. Everybody must play their part.

For information on social distancing see: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx#5-1

NSW Health also wants to remind the public about new regulations surrounding mass gatherings that can be found by visiting: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/covid-19-events.aspx

NSW Health is continuing to trace and respond to cases as they are diagnosed to slow any spread of COVID-19 in the community. To help protect the community people are asked to:

• clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub

• cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow

• avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms

• stay home if you are sick.

Earlier this week, the NSW Government announced $700 million extra funding for NSW Health. This will assist in doubling ICU capacity, preparing for additional COVID-19 testing, purchasing additional ventilators and medical equipment, establishing acute respiratory clinics and bringing forward elective surgeries to private hospitals.

For advice and information about COVID-19 visit: www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx


Recent stories, information and updates regarding COVID-19


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17 responses to “LIVE: COVID-19 latest updates: April 3”

  1. Richard Staples says:

    All good & appropriate response on a local level. But what about the arrival of busloads of backpackers every day in Byron Bay? Have they decided to not travel during their (typically 6 to 12 months) stay in Australia? Any info on travel volumes? Sorry if this sounds xenophobic in any way. But they must be a high-risk group. And being typically young they will be comparatively asymptomatic.

  2. Liz L says:

    Agreed, Richard, I’m feeling quite vulnerable here in this shire. I just checked to find the immediate availability of holiday accommodation in my small street for up to 9 adults!!! What is this sort of thing doing to our shire’s risk file? I’m staying home but need to go into the community occasionally to buy food. Can Council seek to do something proactive about this now in conjunction with NSW health when all the Airbnbs are there on the net for all to see. Some Airbnbs are reportedly advertising their suitability for self isolation!

    The NSW gov has not been helpful in the past but, now presiding over the epicentre of COVID-19 they are rightfully scared shitless.

  3. RONALD PRIESTLEY says:

    Thank you Richard. It is too easy to see the loopholes around us. Why can’t the authorities see it.?
    Thanks for nothing to the kids galavanting around, helping to infect and kill an old man like me.

  4. RONALD PRIESTLEY says:

    It would greatly help safe us to behave safely if the actual towns where an infection occurred were published. Your second para of this story gives nothing.

  5. RONALD PRIESTLEY says:

    It would be a very obvious help if the actual towns where the infections occurred were published. This is an obvious fact needed by the residents so they can behave safely.

    Also the Facebook site RDT locations has a very long list of police highway activity today Wed 25/3 (19,000 poor soles dead). Ever stop breaches the distance rule The Police are the most exposed yet they carry on with a vengeance. SAY IT ECHO

  6. RONALD PRIESTLEY says:

    Nick would!

  7. Marie says:

    Would it be possible to find the number of recovered cases? These are relevant as explained here https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/?fbclid=IwAR2Dx0gQA0Uy0CF36UDRms4EWWXdQ2noumV83XfCSnFcP69Q1PPaHC8h2EY

    Thank you for all your hard work Echo Team!

  8. Mack says:

    The near Orwellian media coverage of Covid-19 is so frustrating , not just the constant fear based bombardment, but because so much of it contradicts itself. I swear last nights television news .stated there were no new cases of the virus in the northern NSW area.

  9. Russell says:

    I have a friend with the virus in the uk and they are all told by there doctors not to take ibuprofen
    I has been linked to a huge amount of deaths in Italy
    Stay safe

  10. Gordon Balfour Haynes says:

    Thank the gods for The Echo’s delivery of pertinent, relevant, local updates without the hysteria of much mainstream news media! Keep it up – and stay safe, be well, Drudges all!

    An observation: With social – now “personal” – distancing and with churches closed against attendance there has been an explosion of virtual churches’ channels on YouTube. All the crackpot Armageddon, Second-advent, Great Judgment doomsayers are very busy saving souls and keeping their coffers filled in the meantime. Virtual “freewill offerings” are as good as the tinkle of real pennies in the collection plate. Business as usual for those charlatans.

    Rule #1: Don’t panic.
    Rule #2: Be alert but not alarmed. (The world needs more lerts!)

  11. Orwellian it certainly is. Local news – forget it
    because it’s Murdoch’s blubber. SBS usually
    makes sense. ABC’s the one to follow + the
    7.30 report. I’m tempted to stay away from
    the lot every 2nd day & sit with The Age
    online & all the other independents. And, a
    thank you to the Echo – that’s a must.

  12. Ginga says:

    Time to start asking the question:

    Who at Australia Border Force has the authority to give wrong direction 3 times in the space of 8 or 9 days & have that wrong directive followed.. sending people that should have gone straight into self isolation out into the community.. no one is that bloody stupid!
    Job for ASIO?

    Ask the question: who benefits? We were doing ok..

    Hope everyone is well & happy…
    stay safe, stay focussed & stay focussed on love.. sweetspot central!

    We love you

  13. Ginga says:

    2 cruise ships & the airport.. all were let into the streets instead of going into self isolation.
    Interesting little story as an overview.

    As we say, no one, is that stupid.

    Is this where you do this..,,

    @ozborderforcespredthev

    Love & blessings

  14. Ginga says:

    Here’s an interesting fact about the 2 cruise ships: both are owned by companies based in Florida. Who else is from Florida?

    Interesting little story this one.

    Singing in the rain & the stars are shinning brightly.

  15. Joe says:

    WHY are we not getting DAILY updates of new & existing cases in each town/city throughout the Northern RIvers region??

  16. RONALD PRIESTLEY says:

    This may have been published before but https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/covid-19-latest.aspx has good maps with Local Shire and postcode statistics.

  17. Hope says:

    Byron Bay 13 cases.
    Ballina 1-4 (?)
    Lismore 5

    A shame the local media cant just print the simple facts.

    Here’s a direct link
    https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/covid-19-lga.aspx

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