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COVID 19 Press Conference Tuesday 24 March


Good morning everybody, NSW
is at a critical stage in relation to the virus, we need to make sure the
spread stops, we need to make sure everybody who’s in self-isolation stays
in self-isolation, we are ramping up our compliance, we’re making sure that people
have followed up if they’re supposed to be in self-isolation
and if they’re not, there are harsh penalties and we’ll enforce that. We have
to take this seriously and if NSW citizens follow the health advice,
which is if you’re self isolating stay in self isolation, that includes
contacts, direct contacts of people who’ve been diagnosed with the virus. If
you are under those instructions please follow those instructions, do not
go out into the community. The quicker we stop the spread, the more
handle, the more control we’ll have over this virus and, as the Chief Medical
Officer will update the community this morning, we have had an increase,
substantial increase, in number of cases again overnight. I don’t want to see that
number going up as rapidly. We have to maintain the spread, contain the spread
and this is exactly the critical time in NSW for that to occur. I also
want to thank the NSW Police Force for their contribution in relation
to containing the spread and making sure people are complying. We know it’s a
tough time for many in the community and my heart breaks for those businesses
that had to shut their doors, my heart breaks for people who don’t have a job
anymore but please be assured that all governments are working hard to provide
support to help all of us get through the next few months which will be difficult.
I also want to thank our school communities. For many people they had to
change what they were doing or or think about that what they were doing and I
want to thank our teachers and I want to thank our parents and school communities
for the way in which they’ve responded to the government’s direction yesterday
this is a difficult time for us but I’m confident New South Wales will control
as much as we can the spread of this virus so long as everybody steps up and
does what they need to do but we are at a critical stage and I
can’t emphasize that enough and I’ll ask Carrie chance dr. Carrie chant to give
an update today and then we’ll take some questions Thank You premier we have
totally 818 total cases of covert 19 that’s an increase of 149 overnight from
8 p.m. from 8 a.m. we have 400 and 174 are locally acquired where there is a
known contact with or an epidemiological link as part of a cluster and we have
425 that are over seized acquired and I would like to reinforce the Premier’s
message it is essential that anyone who has returned from overseas since the
requirements to soph isolate through the border I’ve been put in
place we urge you to please comply we are seeing an incredible burden in our
recently returned overseas travelers and it is essential to protect the border
community and those that you love to maintain that self-isolation
there have been six deaths and there have currently 13 people in ICU thank
you I’ll look out direction in schools is very clear and I’ll ask the Minister
for education to also to also discuss how schools communities are adapting
schools stay open if you need to send your child to school school stay open
however we are recommending at this time that parents keep their children at home
and I said that yesterday and I say that again today we appreciate we appreciate
what a challenging time this is for everybody but we know for practical
reasons a third of parents were keeping their kids at home last week yesterday
that number went up substantially even before the messaging around what we were
recommending and we also appreciate and let me be frank based on health advice
we don’t know what the next five or six weeks will look like
we are entering a period where our schools are about to go into school
holidays and it’s appropriate for us to make sure we get the home learning up
and ready this has been a good chance for us an opportunity for us to make
sure that whether it’s through web-based tools or whether it’s through home
learning that we have the systems in place to support our children to support
our students given what we what we might face into the future good government
means prudent planning it means making sure you have a no regrets policy and I
have a no regrets policy I’m incredibly pleased with the decisions we’ve taken
to date I don’t regret any of them because I believe they’re in the best
interests of our citizens and I’ll continue to make decisions based on the
best interests of our citizens because we are in uncertain times and I want to
look back and think that every time we made a decision it was the right one for
our people and I don’t care what criticism I get throw it at me because I
I am doing it because I believe it’s in the best interest of the citizens of New
South Wales we are a different state to the rest of Australia we have the most
people return from overseas we have the highest number of cases we have the
highest concentration but to give you assurance we also have the Heights
throughout highest rates of testing and that’s what’s giving me comfort well yes
because if you look around the world if you see how the virus is getting out of
control around the world if you see the huge escalation in deaths many countries
did not control the spread at this stage of the virus right we can tell from our
numbers and they’re growing up quite significantly every day but many
countries did not take some of the actions this early on in the process in
order to control the spread and I don’t want to be another example of a
jurisdiction that didn’t do what it needed to do at the right time and I’ve
got an outstanding chief medical officer and her advice means everything to me
but so does my ability to make decisions for my citizens and again I don’t care
what criticism I get I will do what’s right for our people what well we’ve said schools are open
schools are open schools are a safe place and the health advice is that
schools are a safe place and we know that for some families they have no
option to keep their children at home during this time I appreciate that but
schools are a safe place and they’re even safer when there’s less children
there with for the teachers right so we know that the decision we’ve taken is
the best one for New South Wales for practical reasons we knew already the
level of concern in the community was there because at least a third of
parents were choosing right I’ll ask I’ll ask I will ask I will ask the
Minister for education to talk about certainly the communication I’ve seen
has been very clear and I know both the secretary and the minister have met with
all our stakeholder communities yesterday and I’ll ask you to explain
what you’ve done Sarah yeah thanks premier so as the premier very clearly
said yesterday we have asked parents where possible to keep their children at
home it is a recommendation there have been conversations with our principals
from right across the state yesterday there was a web session that happened
with the secretary of the department Mark Scott and our principals to relay
that information back out to parents as the premier said schools remain open for
those who need to send their children that will include a central workers our
frontline staff those who are keeping the community operating during this time
of uncertainty but we also know that many many parents are already choosing
to keep their children at home our average absentee rate in New South Wales
schools usually sits at about 8% yesterday even before the message came
from the premier we had absentee rates of 41% across New South Wales public
schools so what we need to do as an education system is provide support for
families based on their family and personal circumstances whether their
child needs to be at school in the classroom because of their work
commitments or whether they are choosing to keep their child at home for health
or personal reasons that’s why we’re moving to the delivery of remote
learning that’s why we’re encouraging our school communities to provide that
single opportunity for teaching and learning
all students and that is beginning today so the message is clear school is open
for those who need to attend we have said to ask your principals you need to
communicate to your school families your parent communities and carers about what
they need to do if they are able to keep their child at home that was the clear
recommendation from the premier yesterday we are asking parents where
practical to keep your children at home with you no child will no child will be
turned away from a school community we made that clear yesterday and I would
expect that if parents do have concerns if they have questions with any material
that might be coming from their principal or school community they
should speak to their principal about that particular situation so look part
of the reason why we’re moving to some of these models are so that we can
better implement that social isolation and social distancing that we want to
see we know that we will have fewer students turning up into the classrooms
we are seeing that already from what happened yesterday I expect our rates of
absentee students will rise significantly from today onwards and
going in towards the end of the term so what that means for our teachers is that
we have now been able to issue a directive for those who have health
concerns for those who might be pregnant for those who might have concerns or
underlying respiratory conditions such as asthma they will now be able to work
from home we have said very clearly to our principals you need to identify
staff that are uncomfortable for personal reasons but have underlying
health risks that they can continue to do that work that they will be providing
to their students from home that is clear we were able to say that yesterday
and that is something that our teachers organizations have been asking for we
also know with fewer students are in the classroom we’ve asked our principals to
work through models and rosters of who will be working in the classroom who
will be providing work to students at home that will have more flexibility
than we’ve had before we are listening to the concerns of our teachers
particularly around those health and safety issues and these measures will
help to address some of those concerns yeah look I’ve been speaking to our
Craig Peterson the chair of the secondary principals Council I’ve been
speaking to the primary principals our teachers are Catholic and independent
sectors we are ready to roll out this work and as I said yesterday we’ll be
using a range of measures we will be using online systems where we can wear
devices are available where we have connectivity we’re also using physical
packs I know of schools that are printing up work that is being
distributed to students many schools sent work home with their students last
night we have 2200 schools in New South Wales
2,200 public schools they are each unique and they are each different and
there will be different ways that we will deliver this education to our
students and we’ll continue to talk to our PEAC groups including our principals
organizations as this rolls our I spoke to Craig Peters and as I said just
yesterday we’ll continue talking to them through these issues as things
progressed so look as I said there’s a range of methods in which we’re
delivering this work we’re using devices and connectivity where we can we are
using physical work to be sent to our students and don’t forget we’ve done
correspondence school distance education for students in the most remote parts of
New South Wales for over a hundred years we have good practices in place where we
can deliver content that is age-appropriate that is your group
appropriate to our students these are some of the mechanisms that we will be
using I know at my daughter’s school for example today we’ve got opportunities to
access things online we’re getting hard copies sent to us as well there is
flexibility based on parent content and parent circumstances with regards to the
HSC as I said yesterday the board of nessa the New South Wales Education
Standards Authority which administers the HSC a meeting this morning I have
asked them to provide clarity around what we will be doing with the HSC this
year it’s a tough time for year 12 students anyway without the overlying
pressures of covert 19 I want to provide some clear advice to them about what the
HSC will look like we will need to talk to universities about that process they
will be relying on a cohort of students to come in next year those conversations
will begin happening and we’ll be able to provide parents and
students with some more certainty very soon so we’ve made it clear to our
school communities that in terms of absentee rates we want to be collecting
that data each day I’m getting a daily update as to where our school attendance
rates are and for the normal rules that apply around truancy we will be relaxing
those guidelines we’re asking parents to keep their children at home there is
still an expectation and parents should know that their principal their school
teacher will still be in touch with them and with their child to make sure that
that work at home is continuing there is an expectation that our students will be
learning from home but we will be talking to our schools about how we
track those absentee rates and making sure that we do provide that flexibility
given the the recommendations that we’ve made onto that which is a very important
point I’m hoping that by the time the easter school holidays finish things
would be different and would go back to normal but in the chance that we can’t
we can’t continue the level of community freedom we have today in the next while
we need to make sure we have these practices in place to support our
students if they won’t be going to school we don’t know yet that will
depend on the health advice I’m hopeful that after the school holidays things go
back to normal and schools go back to what they used to be but if they don’t
if the health advice suggests that we came that we would change our practices
with schooling at least New South Wales is ready and has this online learning
capacity up and running it’s for practical reasons we’ve done this it’s
important for us to have done this we hope that community disruption won’t be
as long as it has been in other parts of the world but in case it is at least we
know that all of our students will continue a level of education from home
if that is the case we will base that of course on health advice but for
practical reasons we also need to repair ourselves that there could be a
situation when schools don’t function the way they are now where schools are
in a different situation and a prudent government a good government would make
sure that we have those systems in place in a practical way before there’s two
school holidays it’s good timing for us Victorian school children we’re already
going on school holidays their school holiday start this week our sodon’t for
another couple of weeks but why not use this opportunity for practical reasons
to make sure our system is ready so if students do need to get education
outside the school in the home that our systems can cope that we can put in all
the issues that we have no other challenges we have now being ironed out
and given we only made this direction in the last 24 hours I’m incredibly proud
of how the system has adapted of how the online work the online learning and also
the web-based support and also as the Minister has advised the practical ways
that teachers have been engaging with students in this early couple of hours
is very positive and I hope that continues but it also gives us the
opportunity of confidence to everybody New South Wales that no matter what
happens in the next few months students will get a good education from home no
matter their circumstances and if there are any deficiency and equipment or
resources we can fix those things now so if there is a prolonged period and we
don’t know yet it’s too early to say but if there is a prolonged period where
students have to learn from home New South Wales is ready all those chinks
all those things we need to iron out are happening now before the school holidays
which is a good time and then obviously we have the school holidays and then
based on health advice we will then proceed after that I’m sorry well that
depends on the health advice and I don’t want to speculate on that but please
know the decisions we’ve taken in New South Wales are to control the spread
reduce the spread and reduce the amount of time that all of us are functioning
in a way that we’re not used to and and and we’ve done and some of the decisions
with all of can I just say that all of the decisions we’ve taken are based on
health advice but how we apply them practically as a matter for New South
Wales every state has different applications some states of Cross have
closed their borders that’s their decision the decision I’ve taken New
South Wales is in relation to my citizens New South Wales is very
different to other states and we have to apply these things based on health
advice but also in a practical public way well undoubtedly if we don’t control the
spread we are looking at those options and that’s why when dr. chant and myself
say that we’re at a critical time in reducing the spread we don’t say it
lightly we’re saved because we don’t want to go down the path that other
nations have gone down and we know how difficult it is for some sections of our
community in particular in fact I don’t know a single person who’s not worried
at the moment all of us are going through a level of angst no matter what
our situation can I assure you I appreciate that but that’s why we’ve
taken the decisions we have as dr. chant has said we’re at a critical stage where
we need to reduce the spread and our focus our focus we’re ramping up our
focus on people who should be in self-isolation
to make sure they maintain that self isolation we have compliance orders in
New South Wales and they will be pushed to the highest level whether it’s
through police whether it’s through service New South Wales all of our
channels to make sure people are doing the right thing because their actions or
lack of can impact everybody and I can’t speak more frankly than what I have we
are at a critical stage if we control the spread if we reduce the spread will
be better placed to deal with the issue moving forward and that’s why New South
Wales based on health advice has taken the practical steps we have because
remember it’s about making sure we reduce social like we’re just social
interaction to the extent where everybody can maintain social isolation
but if you’re out and about sorry sorry everyone can maintain social distancing
if you’re out and about but also for those who are meant to be in self
isolation that they do that properly well I’ll ask dr. chan to cook to go
over that but that’s why we want to maintain people’s ability to move around
so long as you have good social distancing so long as you maintain if
you’re indoors it’s four square meters and of course outdoors you have to be at
least one and a half meters away from everybody I last stopped to chat to go
over that because she’s the medical expert but it’s okay for people to be
out and about it’s healthy so long as you maintain what’s called physical
distancing or social distancing because unfortunately the virus can spread very
rapidly but alas dr. chan to go over that it’s very information are very
important and I will say that the New South Wales government will continue to
push out that information because that is one bit of information we want
everybody to have everybody to be clear about because that will reduce the
spread because there could be given our population given the number of people
who’ve returned recently from overseas there could be people walking around not
knowing they have it and we need to make sure that is reduced in terms of the
spread doctor chart thank you so if I can just answer that question indirectly
so the social distancing measures are there to stop interactions between
people and so clearly we would prefer young people to not congregate in large
groups so if they’re out and about we do want them to enjoy our outdoors and be
physically active but we want to get get them to group together in small groups
we also want to not encourage mixing of groups across the state or across big so
stick with your friends but try not to engage in in events or so or gatherings
that actually bring together or draw together people that normally don’t
interact all of this is a numbers game if we can reduce the number of new
interactions you have with people you reduce the likelihood that someone in
that group has got covert and spreads it to another so that explains why we’ve
had a particular focus on mass gatherings you know but large events
where you’re actually getting quite a lot of mixing of groups that not
normally would not mix together but come together we just are asking people to
take common sense so in terms of those in self-isolation we have guidance on
our website which clearly outlines what you need to do you need to stay in your
own bedroom you need to have your preferably your own bathroom you can go
out into your back to back backyard you can also go for a walk but you need to
stay 1.5 meters away from people and do not interact at all with anyone so what
we want people to do is understand how this disease is transmitted and help us
at this critical point flatten the curve so we are trying to reduce spread across
the community in order to allow us to do our preparation work which has been
ongoing for many months but have a slow spread of the virus and help us to
ensure that we keep the most vulnerable in our community so another lens I’d
like to indicate is the protection of the elderly so a lot of our strategies
have also been protected at the elderly so advice around aged care facilities
but I would also urge community members to have a plan for their elderly
relatives and friends looking at how they interact supporting them with
social networking which might be iPads tablets and other devices ringing them
more frequently engaging them as socially but also having some thought
about their involvement in family gatherings and other things in a way to
protect them from covert 19 because we know that elderly and those with
underlying health conditions are going to have on average a much more severe
course with this illness than young healthy people you said that there were 13 in ICU how
many people were in hospital all together with Kobe and also can you walk
us through that’s correct so this novel virus the whole community
has no level of immunity so whilst I I say and I have said repeatedly that the
elderly and those with underlying health conditions we will see disease across
all age groups it will be less frequent but if you have a disease which is
spreading across a population by chance you will have younger people affected we
we will release and I think we have indicated the nege groups of those
people in ICU some of them have been in their 50s and some of them on basis of
advice to me haven’t had particularly severe underlying health condition and
that reflects the fact that this disease can cause severe disease across all age
groups in terms of the hospitalization data we will be releasing that later
today but I have got that ICU data which indicates we’ve got 13 people in ICU clearly there’s a lot of planning that’s
been under undertaken to surge our ICU capacity so that involves both the
physical areas in our hospitals that we could convert to intensive care units or
new areas that we could open as intensive care units there’s also been
training and rescaling of staff that have previously had experience in ICU in
the last few years to get them up to scratch we can also redeploy other staff
such as a nice attest when elective surgery is no longer being performed and
these citizens and other other critical care doctors can actually help us in our
ICU so all of that planning is underway yes it will be a challenge and that is
why we are committed totally to also flattening the curve and making sure
that we have the slow spread of the virus in the community in order for our
health service capacity to not be breached but work is underway to access
critical supplies such as ventilators but there’s a component of physical
infrastructure human health assets and equipment that we need.

Stephen Childs

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