From Australia - News in Brief

Elective surgeries cut during virus crisis

Update on Coronavirus Measures

National Covid-19 Coordination Commission

Parents are receiving 'mixed messages' on school closures: Bowen

Government Must Take Action on Price Gouging

Operation Bushfire Assist Concludes

Further Statement on Hairdressers, Barbers and Funerals From National


NSW Must be Put in Full Lockdown...

NSW teachers union calls for transition

Elective surgeries cut during virus crisis

26 March 2020

(See translation in Arabic section)

Canberra - M E Times Int'l: All elective surgery other than the most urgent procedures will be put on hold to free up capacity in hospitals dealing with coronavirus.

State and federal leaders have agreed to indefinitely suspend all category three and most category two surgeries from midnight.

The cancellations will apply to both public and private hospitals.

The move would also help free up resources needed by healthcare staff, the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"This will allow the preservation of resources like personal protective equipment and health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak," Scott Morrison said.

The decision was quickly welcomed by the Australian Society of Anaesthetists.

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Update on Coronavirus Measures

Australian governments are working together to slow the spread of coronavirus 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 24 March 2020 as the National Cabinet.

We are leading the world on testing with more than 161,000 Australians tested and around 2,000 Australians confirmed cases. In contrast to many countries, the majority of Australian cases of coronavirus have been from people returning overseas or direct contacts with people who had been overseas.

However, National Cabinet noted that there has been a significant growth in the number of cases in Australia, with a significant number of Australians returning from overseas and small community outbreaks associated with returned travellers.

National Cabinet reiterated that practicing good hygiene and keeping a healthy physical distance between individuals is our most powerful weapon in fighting this virus and saving lives.

The highest priority should be placed on social isolation measures as well as strict and rapid contact tracing of individuals. It is paramount that contact tracing occur quickly and thoroughly and that public data is available to support this effort.

Leaders again call on all Australian to do their bit to save the lives of other Australians.

Australians should stay at home, unless shopping for essentials, travelling to and from work - where you cannot work from home, going to school and exercising. Keep visitors to your home at a minimum. In outdoor spaces do not congregate in groups. 

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.

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National Covid-19 Coordination Commission

Canberra: Today I announce the creation of a new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) that will coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Commission will ensure the Government receives the most comprehensive advice to meet the challenges ahead to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus and help build a bridge to recovery.

This is about working cooperatively across private-to-private and public-to-private networks to unlock resources, break bottlenecks and fix problems so Australian families, businesses and communities are supported through the challenging months ahead.

Mr Neville Power has been appointed Chairman and brings both high level business expertise and a strong commitment to social issues.

An Executive Board of Commissioners, will advise the Prime Minister on all non-health aspects of the pandemic response. The Board will work in tandem with the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Brendan Murphy, who continues to lead the Commonwealth’s health response.

The National COVID-19 Commission Executive Board includes leaders across the private and not-for-profit sectors: Mr Greg Combet AM, Ms Jane Halton AO, Mr Paul Little AO, Ms Catherine Tanna and Mr David Thodey AO (Deputy Chair).

They will be joined by the Secretaries of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Mr Philip Gaetjens and Home Affairs, Mr Mike Pezzullo.

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Bowen: Parents are receiving 'mixed messages' on school closures

Canberra: Parents are being sent "mixed messages" by state and federal governments about whether they should send their children to school, according to Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen.

The Morrison government and federal health bodies have insisted schools must remain open for all working parents, arguing children are not seriously at risk from the coronavirus.

 The Australian Education Union raised concerns about the health risks posed to older teachers by the coronavirus during a meeting with Education Minister Dan Tehan on Tuesday.

Victoria has ended school terms early but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said while schools are open, parents should keep their children home where possible.

Mr Bowen said if school closures looks likely "the government should put in place measures health care workers and communicate to parents what the arrangements are.

"Instead we have this game of open-them-shut-them between the prime minister and the premier of NSW."

"The prime minister has got to provide national leadership."

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FINN: Government Must Take Action on Price Gouging

Sydney: Shadow Minister for Consumer Protection Julia Finn has called on the NSW Government to take drastic steps to prevent price gouging for essential products like toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

Hoarders have been reselling toilet paper, hand sanitiser and surgical masks for huge mark-ups online and now independent small retailers across NSW have reportedly started marking up prices.

“Price gouging on essential products must stop. Our community cannot stay healthy if they cannot afford the basics like toilet paper and hand sanitiser,” Ms Finn said.

“It is clear the Berejiklian Government needs to step up and introduce a temporary restriction on price gouging for these essential items. The health and well-being of our community is at stake.”

The NSW Government previously introduced legislation to stop online ticket scalpers from reselling concert tickets for more than 10 per cent over their original listed price.

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Operation Bushfire Assist Concludes

Canberra: Defence will formally cease Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020 on 26 March 2020, having completed the emergency and recovery tasks requested by state and local authorities.

Defence has been assisting with the bushfire efforts since early September 2019 by providing wide-ranging support as part of the national response. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked all personnel who provided direct support in the field, at sea, in the air, and from Defence bases as part of Operation Bushfire Assist.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the way Defence has been assisting emergency services across the country in these challenging circumstances,” the Prime Minister said. 

“The permanent and part-time Australian Defence Force members provided essential support to our emergency services across Australia. This remarkable hard work has made a significant difference to the immediate emergency response and the longer-term recovery which Defence will continue to support.”

Operation Bushfire Assist commenced on 31 December 2019 to support state fire and emergency services across NSW, Victoria and Queensland and later provided support to the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.

At its peak, more than 6,500 ADF members provided support as part of emergency relief, response and recovery operations. This included around 3,000 Reserve forces.

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Further Statement on Hairdressers, Barbers and Funerals From National Cabinet

Canberra: Following the receipt of feedback on the practical implementation of measures announced regarding barbers and hairdressers it was agreed by Premiers and Chief Ministers at National Cabinet last night that the instruction regarding 30 minutes per patron will be lifted (effective immediately), but that the 4sqm rule per person must be strictly observed within the premises and that personal contact during the patron’s visit should be minimised wherever possible.

Also it was noted that in hardship cases, States and Territories can provide exemptions in relation to attendance at funerals, but only at the margin.

National Cabinet will meet again on Friday, March 27.

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NSW Must be Put in Full Lockdown...

Sydney: NSW must be placed in full lockdown to deal with the COVID-19 emergency.

People must go home and stay home.

This is the only chance we have to beat the virus. We cannot save jobs unless we stop the virus.

Unless NSW follows the New Zealand example of preventing every possibility of the virus spreading further, countless unnecessary deaths will be the result.

“Today the number of cases in NSW surged past 1000, and we have the first infection in an infant. We are losing control of COVID-19 and if we don’t lock down NSW the current spike will turn into a full-blown explosion,” NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay said. “We must act now, do it right and do it once. Otherwise we are facing a disaster.”

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NSW teachers union calls for transition

Sydney: The NSW Teachers Federation is calling for a planned transition to online learning across all state schools as attendance numbers continue to fall due to coronavirus fears.

Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos says normal school operations must end to ensure the safety of students and staff, with figures on Tuesday suggesting a 75 per cent absentee rate across NSW state schools.

"We need to be able to plan and we need to be able to plan on the basis of clear advice, clear statements, and a clear position by our elected leaders," Mr Gavrielatos told reporters on Wednesday.

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The federal government announced schools would remain open on Monday however NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has encouraged parents to keep their kids at home as the state ramps up online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost one-third of parents in NSW were already keeping their kids home before Monday, Ms Berejiklian said earlier this week.

Mr Gavrielatos is calling for an urgent meeting with the premier to discuss transitions efforts effective from March 30 - starting with a pupil- free day for all students except the children of essential frontline services workers.


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