NSW could move to lockdown, premier says

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 1219, 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.

She said protocols on disembarkation needed tightening and that she was working with the Australian Border Force on new measures.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship – which disembarked last week without adequate checks – is responsible for 121 COVID-19 cases in NSW.

Ms Berejiklian also said the 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.

“If there’s a significant shift … you know you need to take further action.”

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.

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.

“But if we’re happy they’re isolating themselves … that means that pool of infection is not something representing a threat to the broader community.”

Officers from Thursday will have the power to issue fines of $1000 to individuals and $5000 to businesses that breach public health orders.

People in the firing line include returned travellers who contravene the requirement to self-quarantine for 14 days and those diagnosed with COVID-19 who similarly don’t follow the rules.

Ms Berejiklian admitted the clarity of government messaging needed some improvement but implored people to follow medical advice.

She also said tenancy support measures would be announced shortly, and that Service NSW would hire an additional 1000 people.

“There’s no doubt that in some areas, at the margins, further clarity is required. But as we’ve said, I’d rather be cautious and take action and obviously respond accordingly,” Ms Berejiklian said.

The NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association says employers are being “grossly irresponsible” and wasting doctors’ time by sending employees to get clearance and sick leave notes during the health crisis.

Seven people in NSW have died of COVID-19.


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