Australian News

regional quarantine hotels ruled out, Health Minister Brad Hazzard says

The NSW government has ruled out moving coronavirus quarantine hotels to regional areas, the state’s health minister says.

The comments from Brad Hazzard came after the Queensland Premier revealed her government was considering turning rural mining camps into quarantine facilities.

Annastacia Palaszczuk said such a plan would be a “rational option” given a new, more contagious strain of coronavirus had entered Australia and spread in the Brisbane community.

But NSW authorities would not follow suit, Mr Hazzard said.

“This has been looked at very closely by the NSW public health team over the full duration of this particular pandemic,” he said.

“There’s strong views held in our public health team it makes sense to continue to have the hotel quarantine arrangements we currently have.”

He said the main concerns were around transporting arriving overseas travellers to the regions, which might pose a risk of spreading the virus in transit.

Authorities also want to be able to quickly transfer a patient whose condition deteriorates to a major hospital, something that would be harder to do if the quarantine facilities weren’t located in Sydney.

“We simply do not believe, the public health advice here in NSW, we don’t believe there would be an advantage, in fact, (it would mean) distinct disadvantages to consider moving our public health hotels out of the Sydney regional area,” Mr Hazzard said.

Earlier on Thursday, NSW Health issued a warning that anybody who had visited the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane since December 30 needed to immediately get tested and self-isolate for 14 days after they were last at the hotel regardless of their test result.

Contact tracers have spoken to all 10 NSW residents who were reported to have visited the hotel, Mr Hazzard said.

The new virus strain spread at the hotel after a man quarantining there was confirmed infected after returning from the UK.

Fears of wider community spread led the Queensland government to lock down Brisbane for three days last weekend.

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Sydney news: Severe weather warning for ‘vigorous cold front’, Brad Hazzard slams Annastacia Palaszczuk’s hospital comments

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Wild weather on the way

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued a severe weather warning for a vigorous cold front which is sweeping across western NSW and is set to reach the east coast this afternoon.

The BOM urged residents of the following places to be on high alert until Thursday morning: Newcastle, Wollongong, Nowra, Batemans Bay, Goulburn, Broken Hill and Thredbo Top.

For alpine areas above 1,900 metres around Thredbo, winds could exceed 120 kilometres per hour this morning, while areas on the coast are set to receive winds of up to 90 kph this afternoon.

NSW Health Minister slams Qld Government

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s comments that “in Queensland, we have Queensland hospitals for our people” were “astonishing”.

Mr Hazzard said patients in northern NSW who required renal transplants were being denied access to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane and were being “forced to drive themselves 12 or more hours to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney”.

He said more than 6,000 Queensland citizens sought treatment last year at Tweed Hospital, near the border, representing 20 per cent of all in-patients.

He urged the Queensland Premier to review her border arrangements to “ensure patients receive the health care they need”.

Casino gambler arrested

A composite image of evidence in two plastic bags, one cash and one chips
Police will allege the man purchased chips with the proceeds of crime.(Supplied: NSW Police)

A 30-year-old man has been charged following a police investigation into suspicious transactions at Sydney’s The Star casino in July.

On July 21, a search of the man at the casino, and of his vehicle nearby, led to the seizure of more than $10,000 in cash, $50,000 in casino chips, two mobile phones and documentation.

A second search warrant at his Auburn home resulted in police seizing a further $70,000 in cash, a CCTV system and documentation.

Police will allege he purchased chips with money believed to be the proceeds of crime at least twice.

Pub patron guilty of assault after bottom slap

A woman smiling in sunlight.
Annabel Bassil says she hopes her message influences people’s behaviour.(ABC News: Mridula Amin)

A Sydney pub manager brought criminal proceedings against a patron after he slapped her bottom when she walked past him at work.

Annabel Bassil, 22, of south Sydney, said she wanted to send a message that the behaviour was unacceptable.

“I’m a female manager, I work with so many girls and I would hate for them to be in a position where something happened to them and they were like, ‘But Annabel didn’t press charges when it happened to her,'” Ms Bassil said.

The man faced court last week and pleaded guilty to common assault over the incident, which left Ms Bassil feeling “shaken” and “violated” when it took place last August.

Celebrated restaurateur ‘devastated’

Joseph Bekele was just about to open the doors for a busy night at his Ethiopian restaurant in Sydney’s inner west when the phone rang.

It was NSW Health telling him a positive COVID-19 case had dined in his restaurant four days before.

He says the call ended up costing him $35,000.

GPS winter sports suspended

Winter sports at several Sydney schools have been suspended following the tightening of coronavirus rules.

The Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of NSW on Tuesday said it was in the “best interest of the safety and welfare” of staff, students and its community that all winter sport competitions and fixtures be suspended immediately.

Schools affected include the Scots College, St Joseph’s College and Kings.

On August 14, NSW Health banned the mixing of students from different areas of Sydney, as well as movement between rural and metropolitan areas.

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NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard warns we are still ‘sitting ducks’ in virus fight

State Health Minister Brad Hazzard has issued a bleak warning to NSW residents, claiming we are still all “sitting ducks” as coronavirus restrictions are eased across the state.

In a press conference today, he revealed that the state had recorded only one new case yesterday from just over 10,000 tests – but urged people not to get complacent.

Mr Hazzard noted there seemed to have been a “great NSW bust-out” since restrictions in the state were eased.

“Moving about Sydney this morning, and just seeing and talking to folks across New South Wales, I think it’s fair to say that there has been, in a sense, the great New South Wales bust-out,” he said.

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He said people appeared to be rewarding themselves after many weeks of sacrifice and isolation.

“We all deserve it, we’ve all worked very hard at it. So I don’t want to dissuade people from enjoying what is a fantastic state, and at the moment, fantastic weather for this time of the year,” he said.

“But I also do want to remind people that this virus is extremely dangerous, and we are all – every one of us – sitting ducks for this virus.”

Mr Hazzard said many people in cafes did not seem to be exercising social distancing and keeping 1.5m away from each other.

He also noted the “bitter disappointment” of hearing people with symptoms were still visiting friends in their homes.

“I’m very aware of situations where, for example, one particular person … of someone who had a runny nose went with that person’s partner to dinner at a friend’s place, and it turned out that the person with the runny nose did have COVID.”

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Mr Hazzard warned again that people who were sick should be staying home.

“We’re living in dangerous times,” he said. “We can still have fun, but they’re dangerous times until we sort this virus issue out.”

Across the rest of the country, Victoria has recorded seven new cases over the past 24 hours, while Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory all had zero.

In total, Australia has recorded 7040 cases of COVID-19, with 3074 in New South Wales, 1554 in Victoria, 1054 in Queensland, 439 in South Australia, 556 in Western Australia, 226 in Tasmania, 107 in the Australian Capital Territory and 30 in the Northern Territory.

The death toll stands at 98.

The positive results of the past month have prompted the easing of restrictions this week, with Victoria the latest to announce that eateries will be allowed to reopen in June.

Premier Daniel Andrews today confirmed that the state will allow pubs and other eateries to host dine-in patrons in just a matter of weeks. From June 1, cafes, restaurants and the dining sections of pubs will each be allowed to host a maximum of 20 patrons at a time.

“Just three weeks later, from 22 June, those patron limits will go up to 50, and in mid-July … we would look to move to 100 patrons per enclosed space,” Premier Andrews explained.

He also stressed that strict social distancing guidelines would remain in place, including 1.5m spacing, rigorous cleaning and a screening of staff to prevent symptomatic workers infecting customers.

On Wednesday, restrictions were relaxed to allow Victorians to have five visitors in their homes and for outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.

But restaurants and cafes are currently still only allowed to provide takeaway, with no dining in permitted unlike other states including NSW that are now allowing venues to hope for a maximum of 10 people.

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