Australia

Australian states prepared to go it alone in tightening coronavirus measures

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) with State Emergency Operations Controller Gary Worboys delivers a health update on COVID-19 in Sydney, Source: AAP

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has indicated she's ready to move ahead of the Commonwealth towards lockdown-style measures to fight COVID-19 as other states also consider their own additional measures.

The chief health officer for NSW says it will take at least seven days before medical experts can gauge the success of widespread shutdowns implemented across Australia to tackle COVID-19.

But the premier says she's ready to move ahead of the Commonwealth if required and declare a full lockdown across NSW over the weekend.

The number of NSW coronavirus cases jumped on Thursday to 1,219, a rise of 190 on the previous day. Police have since Wednesday been granted new powers to crack down on those flouting public health orders.

More than 15 COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday police would ramp up their public presence and that no cruise ship passengers would be permitted to disembark in NSW until further notice.

Ms Berejiklian also said the state government was "looking very closely" at the impact of shutdowns on pubs, cinemas and churches on Monday - and if they weren't sufficient, they would take further action.

The main criterion by which this success would be judged was community-to-community transmissions of COVID-19, rather than total case numbers.

"I'm saying to the community that if we're not convinced we've had a sufficient amount of success, NSW will have to take further action and that's a position I've been clear on from day one," Ms Berejiklian said.

But chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the full effect of the second stage of shutdowns - in place from Thursday - wouldn't be known for some days.

NSW Police in Sydney
NSW Police in Sydney
AAP

This includes museums, libraries, auctions, beauty services and pools, as well as stronger restrictions on wedding and funeral numbers.

"It does take us at least seven and possibly 14 days to really get a picture ... remember we also have to take out the fact we have returning travellers come in with disease," Dr Chant said.

Seven people in NSW have died of COVID-19.

Queensland schools go pupil free from next week

Queensland schools will be pupil-free next week, but vulnerable children and the kids of vital workers will still be able to attend.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk issued the student-free directive on Thursday, saying it applies to all schools.

She says it's vital that parents in essential jobs, such as healthcare workers and people who stock supermarket shelves, can continue to send their kids to class.

Vulnerable children will also be able to attend school.

The premier said giving teachers student-free time from Monday would help them gear up for mass online and remote learning.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at a press conference at Parliament House in Brisbane.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at a press conference at Parliament House in Brisbane.
AAP

"We are making it very clear that student free days mean that teachers are going to be at school. The schools are going to be open," Ms Palaszczuk told reporters on Thursday.

"We have a lot of frontline workers out there ... that actually need to have their students at school."

The premier said heath advice that has kept schools open so far has not changed, but the pupil-free directive provides the right balance given community concerns.

Education Minister Grace Grace said community kindergartens would also go pupil-free from Monday, but long daycare centres would remain open.

She said teachers would get the time they need to develop remote learning and online learning resources "for what potentially may lie ahead", and that all scenarios are being planned for.

Tasmania tells tourists to 'go home', will also consider lockdown

Tourists in Tasmania have been ordered to go home by the state's premier, who has also implored people not to visit the island amid the coronavirus pandemic.

People staying in hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites and boarding houses have until midnight on Sunday to leave their accommodation, the state government has announced.

"I'm sorry to say that, but go home," Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters on Thursday.

"Unfortunately there will be some dislocation for people but I make no apologies for working hard to keep Tasmanians safe."

Mr Gutwein also implored non-essential visitors to stay away, noting a mandatory 14-day quarantine period on arrival for anyone not considered essential.

"We're built on tourism so it hurts me to say that but do not come and put Tasmanians at risk," he said.

Tasmania will more than double its coronavirus economic stimulus package to $1 billion after an initial $420 million spend last week

"It is unprecedented. Never before has the state had to take steps of this magnitude," Mr Gutwein said.

"The health, wellbeing and safety is the government's number one priority but we need to ensure we underpin our economy and community."

Mr Gutwein said a hard lockdown was possible if people ignored current advice.

The state has recorded 42 coronavirus cases, the latest six confirmed on Wednesday night, but there remains no evidence of community transmission.

Travel restrictions in remote communities

Travel restrictions are being enforced for remote areas to protect vulnerable Aboriginal communities from coronavirus.

From Friday, anyone travelling to designated areas will need to quarantine themselves for 14 days before they can enter.

The restrictions will also apply to residents of the remote communities, but exemptions will be granted to people entering to supply and deliver essential services.

"Governments will support people who do not have appropriate alternate arrangements to self-isolate," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday.

"People already in remote communities should stay there unless it is essential to leave for medical treatment."

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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