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Australian News

Canberra Stadium is ready to welcome fans back to the footy. Here’s what you need to know about the changes


There’s no doubt this weekend is one Raiders and Brumbies fans weren’t sure would arrive again in 2020.

The Raiders and Brumbies themselves weren’t sure the day would arrive again, to be fair.

But the gates of Canberra Stadium will open again this weekend, with the Canberra Raiders facing St George Illawarra in Round 8 of the NRL tonight, and the Brumbies kicking off their campaign in the new Super Rugby competition on Saturday night, taking on the Melbourne Rebels.

Both sides were given the green light to play at home by ACT Health a few weeks ago, but with limited crowds.

And given this will be the biggest single gathering of people in in the ACT since coronavirus restrictions began to lift, there is bit to get your head around before you head to the footy.

How limited will the crowds be either night?

Cardboard cut-outs of people in Raiders fan gear sit in the stands at a stadium surrounded by empty seats.
Cardboard cut-outs can fill the stand but don’t do much for the atmosphere.(ABC News: Brett McKay)

Very.

Including players, officials, media, security, stadium staff, corporate sponsors and fans, there will be no more than 2,000 people in attendance on either night.

It’s better than a stadium full of cardboard cut-outs, but it’s also indicative of how this pilot scheme will work.

But the Raiders have already said this week that being booed by even just 500 Parramatta fans in Sydney last weekend fired them up, so they can’t wait to have three times as many people cheering them on this weekend instead.

Does that mean it could be a bigger crowd next weekend?

Part of the stand showing the sparse crowd.
The Brumbies are taking on the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

The Raiders will play in front of a home crowd again next Saturday night, hosting the Melbourne Storm.

The hope is that if everything goes to plan this first weekend back, then the cap on attendance could be lifted to a new guideline of 25 per cent of capacity.

For Canberra Stadium and its capacity of around 25,000, this new guideline could allow upwards of 6,250 into the ground next Saturday night.

And the authorities want this to happen.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told the ABC this week, “If it all goes well this weekend, and if all the protocols are followed, I can’t see why it wouldn’t increase for next weekend.”

So things are going to be look a bit different this weekend?

An empty arena sportsground in the ACT.
Fans must remain in their seats throughout the game.(ABC News: Brett McKay)

Yes, they will.

For one thing, the majority of the crowd will be seated on the eastern side of the ground — the Gregan-Larkham Stand side — with some fans also situated in the northern and southern corners.

Everyone attending has had their name and contact details added to a register, so that if in the worst-case scenario a fresh virus outbreak is traced back to the stadium, anyone who was there can be contacted accordingly.

You will be assigned to one seat, and asked to sit in that seat. And there will be two vacant seats between you and the people either side of you.

You mean I cant sit next to family members?

Josh McCrone and Kurt Mann carry Jarrod Croker
Things not to take to Canberra Stadium tonight: your annoying brother who calls Jarrod Croker ‘Jason’ just to get a bite. (Croker is seen here in a hurt sandwich with Josh McCrone and Kurt Mann in 2017. If you take a sandwich, make sure it’s wrapped.)(AAP: David Moir)

You can and will be assigned seats together, but there will still be two seats between you and your scarf-wielding mum on one side, and another two between you and your annoying brother who calls Jarrod Croker ‘Jason’ just to get a bite.

The exception is children under the age of 12, or people with special needs: they will be permitted to sit in the seat directly next to their parent or primary care-giver.

And you may be asked to verify your identity against your ticket and allocated seat.

So what cant I bring into the stadium?

It’s dot point time.

Canberra Stadium said the following things should not be brought into the ground:

  • any type of bag including a handbag, camera bag, lunchbox, or plastic bags (if you do bring a bag in, it has to be checked, and that’s not easy to do in an age of social distancing)
  • jackets or items of clothing need to be worn into the stadium, not carried
  • thermoses or drink bottles
  • any signage, flags, posters, or musical instrument without prior approval
  • footballs, or any other kind of ball

What can I bring in then?

External view of Canberra Stadium
Security measures at Canberra Stadium are all about getting people in through the gates as quickly and safely as possible.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

This weekend’s security is all about being able to get people in through the gates and the security checks quickly, easily, and most importantly safely.

So, if what you need can be easily checked as you come through the gates, these items are allowed in:

  • whatever you can carry in your hand or pockets that is not on the list above (you might be asked to place any items brought into the venue on an inspection table as you enter)
  • small purses without a shoulder strap are fine
  • one sealed, non-alcoholic beverage in a plastic bottle and up to 600mL in size is also allowed
  • if you have dietary requirements, you can bring individual items in clear or sealed packaging — sandwiches, packets of chips or muesli bars are acceptable, pizza or a hot cup of noodles are not
  • fans attending with a baby may bring a large size, clear zip-lock bag into the stadium containing essentials like nappies, wipes, and formula
  • a stroller is also be permitted in line with the stadium’s standard conditions, but don’t carry any additional items in the stroller
  • you can bring one blanket, but you may be asked to hold it up and unfold it by security
  • one camera with a lens less than 300mm in length is permitted (but it must not be in a bag)

In addition, all corporate guests must sign a registration sheet with their name and contact phone number when entering the corporate area.

Will I be able to get food and drinks inside the ground?

A gull or, colloquially, seagull, and no relation to Jonathon Gul.
Will I be able to get food and drinks inside the ground? Will I? Will I? Will I? Yes, you will.(Unsplash: Gribgrab)

Food and beverage outlets will operate with limited menus on the northern and southern ends, and the eastern side kiosks.

But the advice is to go to the outlets when you first get inside the stadium, and then head straight for your seats to consume your food and drink.

And you will be asked to remain in your seat throughout the game.

What else do I need to know?

Parking is free. And because there will be no more than 2,000 people there, you may park the closest you’ve parked at the stadium in years!

Check your ticket and make sure you enter through the designated gate. Check whether you need to enter through the east or west gate.

And get there a little earlier than normal, because there may be delays as people go through all the checks.

Don’t arrive five minutes before kick-off. And remember, the people doing the checks aren’t trying to hold you up, they’re just doing the job asked of them as carefully as is needed.

Finally, enjoy the game! Scream your heart out and let the team know you’re behind them.

And hopefully, if everything does go well, more of us can get out to the footy next time.



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Local News - Victoria

Here’s what readers are telling us about lockdown


But for others, the measures are devastating.

“Literally all my friends are five minutes away, but all in non-lockdown suburbs. The sense of isolation is total and overwhelming. We are not ‘all in this together’,” said Deb.

‘We’re suffering to save lives’

I live near the Showgrounds testing centre and have been maintaining very careful social distancing for the past few months. My work has me working from home and every time I’ve gone out, I’ve had a mask (that I bought for the bushfires) on. I rarely see anyone else wearing masks. Both of my parents live on the Mornington Peninsula and have birthdays in July. I can’t go and see them now – I’d planned to visit them next weekend – nor can I go out to get them any presents. Now, that all has to be done online through Zoom.

My housemate works in the city and despite only working at a call centre, they make her go in every day – with no regard for her living in a hotspot. I’m scared that she’ll bring COVID home from her work and it’ll make this whole thing worse. I can’t make plans to visit my friends, because we don’t know when I’ll be out of lockdown. One of my best friends in the UK was due to visit in October – we don’t think he’ll be allowed in the country, let alone allowed to see us. I’ve got a decent supply of food, so if we do need to stay inside, I can manage it. But it’s hard to face the prospect of another month within the same tiny two-bedroom apartment, only going out briefly for food and exercise.

Despite all this, I think the government is doing the right thing. We can’t risk Australia blowing up to America’s levels of infection. Yes, it’s awful for my mental health, but I’d prefer to deal with severe depression if the alternative is letting thousands of people potentially die. We’re suffering to save lives and that’s so incredibly important to remember and focus on – especially since the simple act of wearing a mask serves to help save people! – Heather

I live in a locked-down suburb. I gave birth to my second child during the first lockdown and since then we have done everything right in the hope that our baby could meet her vulnerable great grandparents soon. We haven’t even been out for a coffee or done any socialising. My husband works from home and I am on maternity leave so we have basically been house bound for almost 4 months now. All of our family and friends live in non-hotspot areas. We are happy to take one for the team here if this lockdown works in stopping the spread. But it will be hugely disappointing to us, after we’ve followed all the rules, if it doesn’t. – Zoe

My partner and I have been working from home since March and doing all of our shopping online. Even when the restrictions lifted we remained cautious and have not been going out much. So while the reimposed lockdown will not have a huge impact on our lives, it is a shame that we can’t have the occasional visitor or go further afield for walks like we have been. It is slightly frustrating that we have been so cautious ourselves and yet are now in this situation. I would really warn people in other postcodes not to become too complacent as I think a hotspot could occur anywhere, it’s just bad luck that it happened to us this time. – Iain

I am currently housesitting in a non-lockdown hotspot but will have to go back home into a lockdown suburb next week. The thought of going back into lockdown actually brings me much comfort as it is clear that we should have done this sooner. If we’ve been through it before, we can get through it again! We’ve just got to look out for each other and support the vulnerable members of our community. – Anonymous

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I am in the suburb of 3064, currently in lockdown. I have no complaints at all. I can still provide care to my mother-in-law and my mum when required. I am lucky to have a job and still able to shop for groceries when needed. I recently lost an elderly aunt in the States to coronavirus.

Put things into perspective for me. I would do whatever I can to make it safer for all not just for my loved ones. Just because I am OK doesn’t mean that I stop caring about those who may not be. We are truly “all in this together”, just different people choose to look at the situation differently. – Dee

Premier ‘playing postcode lottery’

I am in postcode 3032. My mental health has really suffered as a result of the pandemic so far. We’re all in this together died the moment the Premier decided to play postcode lottery. For the next month my netball team will train, my friends will go to restaurants and I will be at home trying to live with depression alone. – Anonymous

Live in Ascot Vale (3032), other side of the road is Moonee Ponds (3039) and not locked down. My wife lost her tourism job back in March and I’ve been working from home since then. The newborn baby (6 weeks tomorrow) is the highlight in the house but we feel locked up again. Mentally it is draining and it’s only day one again.

We are being punished for something we didn’t do and it just doesn’t feel right. Grandparents who are overseas can’t come to visit their granddaughter (until 2021?), it’s unclear if the baby gets her 6 weeks immunisations as appointments are not booked in “because of COVID”. Victoria is prioritising one virus over all other medical conditions. Right now we are saving lives by ruining others. Would like to invite Dan Andrews and Brett Sutton to join us in the area and go into lockdown with us all … then we are truly in this together. – Paul

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I live in the bottom corner of 3055. Feels a bit pointless to lock down the whole suburb when there were between four and seven cases in the area. If they’re all spread out, then sure, I understand, but if it’s one household it feels like collective punishment.

“We’re all in this together” rings a little less true when I’m restricted to my apartment but the folks a few hundred metres down the road who shop at the same supermarket as me aren’t. More detail and data on why my tiny suburb is being treated the same as an area with more than 35 active cases would be appreciated from the government. – Charlie

We are in Ascot Vale and across the road (Maribyrnong Road) is Moonee Ponds which is not locked down. We have a five-week old baby so we were just starting to get used to people being able to drop by to support us and meet our daughter and now we’re isolated once again. It’s made harder by the fact that my husband is Dutch and his parents have no idea when they’re able to fly over to meet their granddaughter. Meanwhile his family is on holiday in France! You can’t help comparing situations. This lockdown already feels harder for us than the first one and we are pretty down about it. – Caitlyn

As a single person with no immediate family and already working from home, a month in effective solitary confinement is utterly devastating, particularly when my suburb, Maribyrnong, really wasn’t mentioned as a pressure point before its lockdown was announced. Literally all my friends are five minutes away, but all in non-lockdown suburbs. The sense of isolation is total and overwhelming. We are not “all in this together”. – Deb

If we haven’t got COVID but are imprisoned in our own homes and others in the state aren’t, we should be financially compensated for our time. Especially since my JobKeeper payments are due to end July 12 and I have no work to go to because of the restrictions again. – JP

It’s my first year out of university and my graduate year (a law grad) and instead of getting to know everyone at the firm and really bolstering my skills and my network, I’m stuck working from home and now, stuck inside my home for the next month, despite the fact that my suburb has not recorded more than two cases – but a suburb within my postcode dropped the ball.

I know I should be more grateful that I’m still employed and that I still have a constant income but, to be frank, the original lockdown took a major toll on my mental health but what got me through that was the fact that we were all in this together.

This time around will be worse. I don’t know how far I’ll make it without just collapsing into a heap. I also think a month’s lockdown is incredibly unreasonable – the duration should have corresponded with the timing of the suburban testing blitz. If the numbers begin to go down and we still remain locked out of society, expect many people to begin to flout the regulations. – Anon

Police begin day one of postcode lockdown enforcement in hotspot suburbs around Melbourne.

Police begin day one of postcode lockdown enforcement in hotspot suburbs around Melbourne.Credit:Chris Hopkins

This postcode by postcode hodgepodge lockdown only serves to muddy the waters of what has been a pretty farcical reopening message by both the federal and state governments. Now we are meant to shut down in one area but not another, behave differently if you’re from one suburb but not another, or watch your neighbours across the street have access to a different standard of living because of an arbitrary line on a map that says you are in a hotspot.

I’m in a locked down suburb (Ascot Vale) but the postcode line is on my street so the other side of the road, not 20 metres away is not in exclusion. To go shopping to my closest shopping centre (Flemington) means going out of the exclusion zone and once there I’m meant to behave as though I’m under lockdown but no one else there will be. I can’t sit down for coffee while there but the person I’ve stood (respectively 1.5m away from) next to in the queue for the last 10 minutes can.

This needs to be a whole state lockdown not just by postcode if the Victorian Government wants to send a clear and concise message to the people of Victoria rather than this muddied, confusing reopening that we have seen over the last four weeks. If we want to keep people socially distancing we need everyone to do it, not just people in 10 postcodes spattered through the north-west of Melbourne. – Andrew

I’m in lockdown but I feel for my local coffee shop more, it would be allowed to run as normal if it was just on the other side of Hoffman’s road in Niddrie. Can’t imagine they are too happy with Dan Andrews and his “sorry, we stuffed up the hotels and let the virus spread, our bad, here is 5k”. Dan should have to give them all the money they are predicting they will lose over this month. – Zach

We are a family of four in Brooklyn – 400 metres from the border of Altona North. We were due go on a holiday to see my Dad in NSW on Friday but that can’t happen now and to give us a break from being at home since March, I just took my 8 -year-old son for a walk with the dog but all the playgrounds have been closed.

There were quite a few people out for a walk at lunchtime. Our “treat” will be to go grocery shopping, which means we will walk to Altona Gate to get some exercise and get the kids out of the house. It is going to be a long month. This lockdown has created an “us and them” mentality. Whatever unity there was previously around this shared experience, has been eroded. – Jackie

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Australian News

As NSW coronavirus restrictions ease further, here’s what has changed from today



Today brings a raft of eased NSW coronavirus restrictions right in time for school holidays, but the winter break is going to look a little different this year.

From today, indoor venues including pubs, cafes and restaurants, as well as functions, can hold any number of people, as long as they remain seated and stick to one person per four square metres.

Weddings can have up to 20 guests, excluding the couple getting married.

A maximum of 10,000 fans are allowed to fill stadiums for sporting or cultural events from today, while community sport can resume for kids and adults alike.

But some things are staying the same: the 20-guest limit on household and outdoor gatherings remains in place, which means nightclubs and music festivals are still off the cards.

What can I do this winter break?

Winter break begins in NSW from this weekend until July 19, meaning about a million students in the state will have two weeks worth of free time to fill.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and Luna Park will reopen this week, while the Blue Mountain’s Scenic World will also open its gates.

Ice-skating rinks across the state have reopened, along with museums, galleries, libraries and some cinemas — but are all subject to the four-square-metre rule.

If you’re eyeing off an alpine holiday in the state’s snowy region, be warned: although the 2020 season has gone ahead, slashed capacity resulted in mountain passes and accommodation mostly selling out.

Where can I travel?

Although international travel is still off the cards, NSW people are free to visit Queensland, Victoria and the ACT these school holidays — however, there are a few catches.

Although she has refused to shut the Victoria-NSW border, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian commanded people not to travel to Melbourne at all and encouraged NSW accommodation vendors to bar Melburnians.

From July 10, Queensland will welcome travellers from every state except Victoria, whose citizens will need to quarantine for 14 days before they can visit the sunshine state.

Everyone else will need to sign a form swearing they haven’t been to Victoria in the past two weeks and Health Minister Steven Miles warned that “strict penalties will apply for people who lie to us about any travel to Victoria”.

Travel to South Australia is not permitted for NSW or Victorian people, after the SA Government scrapped plans to fully reopen their borders by July 20.

The NT said they plan to open their borders on July 17, but people who live in Melbourne “hotspots” will have to self-isolate for 14 days at their own cost upon arrival.

Tasmania’s borders are still shut to interstate travellers.



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Australian News

Australia and New Zealand are hosting the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup. Here’s how the tournament will work


It’s official — the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is heading to Australia and New Zealand.

In what is one of the biggest boosts football and women’s sport in Australia has ever received, the world’s attention will be turned down under for a month-long football festival.

Here’s everything you need to know about how the tournament will work.

When will the tournament take place?

The dates FIFA has nominated for the tournament to take place are between July 10 to August 10, 2023.

This, being the southern hemisphere winter, would make playing conditions perfect across the two host countries.

Sam Kerr celebrates a goal by giving a high five to a teammate as she runs away from the camera
Playing conditions will be perfect during the Australia-New Zealand winter.(AP: Laurent Cipriani)

There is no clash with either the A-League or W-League, but the grass-roots state-based competitions will be running at the same time in both countries — considered a bonus for the bid team to drive engagement.

When it comes to potential clashes, the elephants in the room are the NRL and AFL competitions in Australia, and provincial rugby union competition in New Zealand.

However, the bid team state they have “secured the support and commitment of other sports to collaborate on the delivery of the tournament” — which was not the case for the ill-fated 2022 bid.

Where will the games be played?

The bid proposes 13 stadiums in 12 cities across Australia and New Zealand, telling FIFA it would prefer a minimum of 10 to be used — five in each country.

FIFA has the final say, but noted all the proposed stadiums performed strongly against the required criteria.

Selfie with Samantha Kerr
Matildas fans will have a golden opportunity to see a World Cup on home soil.(Australian Story: Jennifer Feller)

Eden Park in Auckland is down to host the opening game, with Stadium Australia in Sydney pencilled in for the final.

The planned redevelopment of Sydney Olympic stadium into a 70,000-seat, rectangular facility was recently put on ice, but FIFA demands the World Cup final is played in a venue with a minimum capacity of 55,000 — and Homebush is the only place that fulfils that criteria, redeveloped or not.

Stadium City Capacity
Stadium Australia Sydney 70,000*
Eden Park Auckland 48,276
Hindmarsh stadium Adelaide 18,435
Lang Park Brisbane 52,263
Christchurch stadium Christchurch 22,556
Dunedin stadium Dunedin 28,744
Waikato stadium Hamilton 25,111
York Park Launceston 22,065
AAMI Park Melbourne 30,052
Newcastle stadium Newcastle 25,945
Perth Oval Perth 22,225
Sydney Football Stadium Sydney 42,512
Wellington Regional Stadium Wellington 39,000

*Redeveloped capacity. Current capacity is 82,500.

The bid team is banking on welcoming 1.5 million fans through the gates across those venues for an average of 24,000 spectators per game, which would make it the most well-supported women’s World Cup in history.

How many teams will there be?

The 2023 Women’s World Cup will feature 32 teams, up from the 24 that competed in France in 2019.

US women's soccer team celebrate winning 2019 world cup
The reigning champions, the USA, will likely be one of 32 teams at the World Cup.(AP: Alessandra Tarantino)

There will be eight groups of four teams in the initial stages, split evenly between Australia and New Zealand.

Qualification will start next year — contingent on an easing of the global coronavirus pandemic.

As with the men’s tournament, the hosts qualify automatically. In the instance of a joint bid, both teams get the nod.

The breakdown of how many teams will be able to qualify from each confederation will be determined in due course.

Who will be the favourites?

It’s not too much of a stretch to say our Matildas will be among the teams most likely to lift the cup at the end of the tournament.

Australian women’s football has been going through its own “golden generation” in recent years, and it now looks like it could time its crescendo perfectly at a World Cup in its own backyard.

Two soccer players face off each other for the ball
The USWNT and the Netherlands faced off in the 2019 final.(AP: Francisco Seco)

They’ll have to get through the usual juggernauts though, most notably the USA. The US Women’s National Team has won the World Cup four times, including at the past two tournaments in 2015 and 2019.

Of the European contingent Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden are all strong, while England has enjoyed a rise in recent years. And while Australia is currently ranked higher than Brazil, it would be foolish to count the South Americans out.

But with three years until kick off, there is plenty of water to go under the bridge. Australia will spend those three years preparing for its chance on its biggest stage ever.



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News

That ‘Human Bone’ Found in a NASA Mars Photo Isn’t Even New. Here’s The Real Story


A 2014 Mars photo that has strangely resurfaced in tabloids this month does not show a femur amidst the rubble of the Red Planet. Like all such photos to date, the object you see is just a plain old Mars rock. And NASA debunked it six years ago.

 

The image was taken using the Curiosity Rover’s MastCam on 14 August 2014, and rapidly spread among conspiracy theorists as proof Mars once harboured life, prompting the space agency to set the record straight.

“Seen by Mars rover Curiosity using its MastCam, this Mars rock may look like a femur thigh bone. Mission science team members think its shape is likely sculpted by erosion, either wind or water,” wrote a NASA spokesperson in a brief blog post.

“If life ever existed on Mars, scientists expect that it would be small simple life forms called microbes. Mars likely never had enough oxygen in its atmosphere and elsewhere to support more complex organisms. Thus, large fossils are not likely.”

Seeing patterns in random configurations isn’t a new phenomenon. You probably do it every day without realising – whether it’s a face in your power outlet or a pawprint in the soap scum on your shower door. This phenomenon is called pareidolia, and it’s thought to occur when some parts of the brain process visual information and jump to conclusions before the rest of your brain catches up.

 

Here on Earth, most people recognise their pareidolia for what it is, but for some reason – perhaps because we can’t go there and poke the objects in question – pareidolia on Mars is fertile territory for conspiracy theorists.

Many rocks have sparked flights of fancy about signs of ancient life or even full-blown civilisations on Mars. The most famous, perhaps, was the picture of a region called Cydonia, taken in 1976, thought to show a massive sculpture of a face (later, high-resolution images showed it was… just a rock formation).

There’s also the Mars Bigfoot, the Mars cannonball, the Mars spoon, the Mars warrior woman and the Mars “Assyrian god”. Last year, a scientist claimed to have identified fossilised insects on Mars. Another claimed to have found mushrooms. But there’s absolutely no evidence that these images show anything other than weathered rocks.

We’ve been sending missions to Mars since the 1960s, including four successful rovers and five successful landers. Scientists are itching to find signs of life – past or present – on that dusty red rock-ball. Not only would it be fascinating to learn what extraterrestrial life looks like, it would be incredible evidence that Earth is not unique in the Universe.

Our efforts are currently focused on microbes. As NASA already noted, the Martian environment is probably not and may have never been conducive to more complex life. If more complex life has thrived on Mars in the past few billion years, our rovers and orbiters have found absolutely no evidence for it. 

Whoever makes that first detection is going to go down in history (and be a very strong candidate for a Nobel Prize); scientists have no interest in covering up evidence of life on Mars. This vaguely femur-shaped rock is simply not it.

As for why the image is showing up again in tabloids now, six years after it was discovered and debunked, your guess is as good as ours.

 



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Business

If Dominic Perrottet cared about jobs as much as he claims, here’s what he would do


Perrottet claims that “everything for me is jobs, jobs, jobs”. He’s certainly right to believe that the political survival of every government – state or federal – will depend on their success in getting people back to work after this terrible, government-ordered recession. And it won’t be easy.

But if he cared as much about jobs as he claims to, he’d raise state public sector wages by 2.5 per cent as normal and spend big on his specific, look-at-moy, look-at-moy job creation projects.

If it’s all so important, why must one form of job creation be sacrificed to pay for another? Why must Peter be robbed to pay Paul? Perrottet says “this is not about the budget. This is not about savings”.

Really? Then what is it about? Well, one possibility is that it’s about party prejudices. Perrottet hails from the Liberal tribe, whose members tend to regard people who work for the government as overpaid and underworked. If private sector workers are likely to miss out on a pay rise this year, those tribe members might be pretty unhappy about seeing nurses and teachers and pen-pushers escape unscathed.

But I suspect the real reason is Perrottet’s unreal fear of debt and, more particularly, of having the state’s triple-A credit rating downgraded. In the old days, governments worried a downgrading would mean having to pay higher interest rates on their bonds. But these days rates are already so close to zero you couldn’t see the difference with a magnifying glass.

So why are our politicians – state and federal – willing to cede their sovereignty to a bunch of American rating agencies, whose creditability was smashed in the global financial crisis? Not only did they fail to see it coming, they contributed to it by selling triple-A ratings to business borrowers whose debt was later found to be “toxic”.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

Illustration: Andrew DysonCredit:

So why? Because the pollies live in fear of the drubbing they’d take from the other political tribe. Unfortunately, Labor is as much into playing cheap tit-for-tat politics as are the Libs. Being downgraded by a bunch of Yanks on the make is, we’re always assured, the ultimate proof of economic incompetence. Yeah, sure.

Turning to the private sector, it’s long-established practice is for annual pay rises to be forgone during recessions. Despite the Victorian government’s support for a 3 per cent increase in national minimum and award wages, the Fair Work Commission is likely to follow precedent and give it a miss. The Morrison government wouldn’t have the gumption to propose otherwise.

Individual big businesses will press their unions to skip a beat, and workers afraid they could be next on the dole queue won’t be inclined to argue. Economic orthodoxy says it’s never smart to raise the price of something – labour, in this case – when you’re not selling enough of it. (It’s just a pity there’s so little empirical evidence to support this over-simplified model of how the job market works.)

One of the troubles with recessions is they encourage counter-productive behaviour. Fearful of losing my job, I cut my spending and save as much as I can. But when everyone does the same, we all suffer.

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It’s the same with wages. When business is weak and profits are down, it makes sense to keep your wage bill low. But when every business does it, the result is no growth in the wages your customers use to buy your product and get you back to health and strength. Allow you to employ a few more people even.

What gets me is that their “debt and deficit” phobia stops even the Liberals from seeing that, at times like this, the role of the public sector is to do whatever it takes to rescue their mates in the private sector (which includes you and me). Even the business lobby groups don’t seem to get it.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.

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Coronavirus affects mental health too – here’s what we know | Anthony David | Opinion


No aspect of our bodies or our lives is immune to the coronavirus pandemic. This is certainly the case for mental health, with some experts issuing dire warnings about an impending psychological “tsunami”, whether through having mental health problems or our extraordinary attempts to contain them.

While it’s too early to know what the long-term mental health effects of Covid-19 may be, we can seek lessons from the Sars epidemic of 2002-04 and Mers, in 2012, both caused by a closely related virus. The publication in the Lancet Psychiatry of the first comprehensive synthesis of evidence on the psychiatric consequences of coronavirus infection – encompassing Sars, Mers and Covid-19 – offers us some early insight.

This systematic review, led by the doctor and PhD student Jonathan Rogers, of 72 published studies involving more than 3,500 patients found that a quarter of people hospitalised for coronavirus infections including Covid-19 have some kind of confusion or delirium. This is most likely due to reduced oxygen reaching the brain, or the effects of fever but could – in a few cases – reflect a more direct attack on the central nervous system. Neurologists are seeing rare cases of encephalitis, most likely immune mediated.

But what of common mental disorders? Around a third had depression or anxiety which tended to subside after the acute phase. Data from the post-acute illness phase are more pertinent. Although based on Sars and Mers alone, almost one in three cases in hospital went on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); that’s based on 402 people from four studies but followed up for nearly three years. Rates of depression and anxiety – which overlap with PTSD – were at roughly 15% one year after the illness, and more than 15% also complained of fatigue, mood swings and sleep disorders. Although the figures suggest large numbers of new psychiatric casualties, these people had severe illnesses and any life-threatening condition is likely to require some psychological readjustment.

It isn’t all bad. A few studies describe the phenomenon of post-traumatic growth – which I’ve seen first-hand: colleagues who, while pushed to their limit, find they have never felt more vital or fulfilled.

Another longer-term outcome is suicide and some commentators have prophesied increased rates; this is dangerous as even talking about suicide can weaken a troubled person’s resolve to resist taking their life and the effect can be contagious. While there was a slight peak in suicides in older people during the Sars epidemic in Hong Kong, this might have reflected local cultural factors such as the stigma and shame some endured because they believed they were responsible for passing on the infection to loved ones. Of course, isolation and fear will add to the despair of all vulnerable people caught up in the pandemic, and strenuous efforts from mental health charities and community organisations to reach out and mitigate these effects have begun. The 19th-century sociologist Emile Durkheim surmised that social cohesion was a bulwark against suicide, which explains the near universal fall in suicide rates in times of war.

Will the “we’re all in this together” effect pull us through the current phoney war? Possibly. The bigger worry is that an aftermath of recession, unemployment, alcohol and indebtedness will be overwhelming for some.

Information from cases in hospital only gives us part of the picture but other emerging data from well-conducted population surveys can complete it. For example, the Covid-19 social survey led by social scientist Daisy Fancourt at UCL is publishing results week by week from a pool of around 100,000 people. This shows that levels of anxiety spiked around the lockdown but have since been gradually subsiding as we get more used to the situation. Mean levels of anxiety, scored on standardised scales, were well below the cut-off for even mild clinical disorder. The survey does show that those already suffering from a mental disorder before the pandemic were made worse, and for them it could be the difference between “just managing” and something else.

For the half a million people with serious and enduring mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, social isolation is the default. If you live in a world where, at best, anything from religion to TV and the internet seem arranged to undermine your sense of self, rather than offer a comfort or distraction, imagine what it’s like to be in the midst of a pandemic. One of my patients described how her nemesis, the persecutory voice that followed her every thought, announced that he was suffering from a virus “himself”. Eventually the voice, that personification of threat, fell victim to the disease. My patient enjoyed a few days of blissful respite until – so she believed – the virus, in a final posthumous category-defying leap, infected her too.

If there’s a lesson from psychiatry at times like this it is to hang on to a kind of natural and shared immunity. Studies on “psychological debriefing” after traumatic events, that is therapists carrying out assessment interviews immediately following a trauma, show that not only does this not help, it actually makes the situation worse, sometimes increasing rates of PTSD. Perhaps such clinical efforts derail natural processes – biological, psychological and social – that have evolved to deal with major adverse events. Of course, some people will require more, and competent clinicians need to be on hand to deploy all the treatments available. But most, especially those recovering or venturing out to work, don’t need to be encouraged to emote in a certain way, to list the pain and guilt. Most people will need a good night’s sleep, personal protection, reassurance that their efforts are appreciated or that they’ve come through the worst, and above all the space to share stories with each other.

Anthony David is director of the UCL Institute of Mental Health and author of Into the Abyss: A Neuropsychiatrist’s Notes on Troubled Minds



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The AFL will soon announce its plans to resume the 2020 season. Here’s the state of play


At some stage over the next couple of days, the AFL will reveal its plans for resuming the 2020 season, which was paused on March 22 after one solitary round of matches.

The league has taken a cautious approach in the weeks since, refraining from setting ambitious targets and moving ahead of the wider government advice, even as Australia showed signs of controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Even still, it hasn’t been an easy road to this point, and there remains much to overcome before round two can belatedly begin.

With footy on the horizon once more, here’s the state of play.

What’s the go with training?

As you would almost certainly be aware, each state and territory has been largely in charge of its own response to the coronavirus pandemic. While guided by federal policy, states have moved at their own pace when imposing and relaxing restrictions.

For the AFL, this has spelled problems. The league has made a priority of ensuring equality for every club, which has meant it has only allowed players to train in pairs.

The AFL was forced to prevent clubs from Western Australia and South Australia from training in larger groups of 10 — something that has been allowed by the governments in those states, but until now has not been allowed in Victoria.

The Adelaide Crows found themselves in hot water for breaching this directive when a group of players were spotted training together in the Barossa Valley.

Two AFL footballers sprint together, metres apart, during training in coronavirus isolation.
Players have only been able to train in pairs during the shutdown.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

Sixteen players received suspended one-match sanctions and assistant coach Ben Hart was stood down from coaching duties for six weeks.

But Monday’s announcement by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has brought the state in line with much of the rest of the country, and it means all clubs will soon be able to resume training in a modified format on an equal footing.

Or at least it would, if not for another problem — border restrictions.

There are a number of players who have recently returned to WA and SA after spending some shutdown time elsewhere. Those players are currently under a strict 14-day period of self-isolation, and as a result will not be able to join group training until sometime next week.

The AFL’s emphasis on equality is again set to be tested, and we await word on when training will once again be allowed.

How will they look to play the games?

Despite looking into the logistics of setting up “hubs” around the country for teams to live and play in — and seemingly scaring the daylights out of the players in the process — the AFL is hoping to be able to continue the season in a fairly simple fashion.

In an ideal world, teams will be able to fly in and fly out for away games, allowing the league to proceed with a fairly traditional home and away season. But, as always, there is a catch.

While Victoria and NSW currently have no tight restrictions on their border, and the Queensland Government has already shown a propensity to be flexible for its NRL clubs, the situation is less fluid in SA and WA.

At the moment, neither are willing to budge on their strict border restrictions, and though SA Premier Steven Marshall has suggested Crows and Port players may be made exempt from 14 days of isolation upon return to the state, WA Premier Mark McGowan refuses to even go that far.

It means, in all likelihood, West Coast and Fremantle will have to set up their own little hubs elsewhere in Australia for at least the first portion of the season, while the SA clubs will have to forgo home games until interstate visitors are allowed.

It’s a significant obstacle for all four clubs, but a number of players have expressed their willingness to make it happen for the sake of getting the season up and running.

Dockers player Michael Walters gets away from Eagles opponent Elliot Yeo while carrying the ball during a pre-season game.
West Coast and Fremantle will likely have to set up camp interstate for a period of the season.(AAP: Gary Day)

What will the fixture look like?

Even before the shutdown happened, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan had announced the season would be shortened to 17 rounds or 153 games.

With one round ticked off, there are 144 games to play, plus finals, to complete the 2020 season as it is currently formatted. Every team is set to play each other once under this scheme.

An AFL executive in a suit speaks at a press conference.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan hopes to conclude the season by October.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

McLachlan’s hope is to have the season completed by the end of October, which could mean an October 31 grand final.

A number of methods have been suggested for dealing with ever-changing restrictions and guidelines, including devising the fixture in chunks on the fly and scheduling WA and SA derbies in round two to keep those teams at home for one week longer.

What is likely is some sort of blockbuster match first up to try and make sure the season restarts with a bang. It’s also worth remembering games are shorter this year, down to 16 minutes plus time on, rather than 20 plus time on.

And when might all this happen?

It’s the million-dollar question.

McLachlan has been cutting an increasingly confident figure over recent weeks, and after conversations with the Government and the planned relaxation of restrictions, there is a firm belief AFL footy will be back in June.

Reports have ranged from as early the 11th to as late as the 25th, but an exact date of resumption will depend on how quickly and effectively the AFL can solve its various problems around training, and how swiftly Australia continues to proceed with easing coronavirus restrictions.

Tuesday or Wednesday loom as the most likely days we will receive some answers to the many questions, and we can start dusting off our scarves again.

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Early risers will be rewarded with both Eta Aquariids and Comet SWAN: Here’s what you’ll see and where you’ll see it


Set your alarm clocks. Early tomorrow morning Australian sky watchers will be treated to two beautiful celestial events that will make getting out of bed before the crack of dawn worthwhile.

Not only is the annual Eta Aquariid meteor shower at its peak, but there’s a beautiful comet in the sky.

The best time to see these two separate, but spectacular, events is probably between 4.30 and 5.00AM. Experts say the meteor shower is best viewed between 2AM and 5AM, but the comet is likely to be most visible for half an hour before 5.

Why the excitement about Comet SWAN

Comet SWAN was discovered in early April by Michael Mattiazzo, an amateur astronomer from Swan Hill in Victoria, while he was sifting through data from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

“Everyone is getting really excited because this is the biggest comet we’ve had in a long time and its particularly photogenic,” says astrophotographer and astronomer Dylan O’Donnell.

So how bright will it get?

We’re not entirely sure, says Jonti Horner, an astronomer at the University of Southern Queensland.

While the comet may be bright enough to see with your eyes by the time it comes closest to Earth on May 12, at the moment it’s still a bit dim unless you live in a dark sky area.

But even if you can’t see it with your eyes, it’s so big it’s easy to pick up in a camera, says Mr O’Donnell, who has been observing it from his backyard in Byron Bay.

“I haven’t been able to see it with my naked eye, but my camera with its long exposures really reveals the whole thing,” he says.

Here’s what we know about this celestial visitor and how you can catch it.

Where to see it

Eta Aquariid and Comet SWAN sky map
The radiant point of the Eta Aquariids and Comet SWAN as seen from Brisbane on May 6(Stellarium/Ian Musgrave)

At the moment Comet SWAN is predicted to reach a brightness of around magnitude 2.5 — that’s around the same as the fourth brightest star in the Southern Cross ƍ (Delta) Crucis over the next week.

But the light is diffuse, so it won’t look that bright — it’ll look like a green fuzzy blob on the eastern horizon with the naked eye.

Although it is getting brighter, it is also getting closer to the horizon each day as it moves towards the Sun, which will make it harder to see in the dawn twilight.

The other factor to take into account is light from the Moon.

Juggling all these factors, the best time to see the comet may be tomorrow morning between 4.30 – 5.00 AM, after the Moon has disappeared.

The Moon will be full on May 7, and will be in the sky all night from then making the comet harder to see in the dawn twilight.

“[The Moon is] going to start to wash out this view we have of the comet so we’re taking every opportunity we can to get in while its darkest,” Mr O’Donnell says.

Tomorrow morning also coincides with the Eta Aquariid meteor shower, in the same area of the sky for extra viewing pleasure.

The comet will disappear below the horizon around May 17 in the Southern Hemisphere.

Where did it come from?

Comets are balls of ice and dust that zoom in from the outer reaches of our solar system.

Some comets such as Halley’s comet, which is responsible for the Eta Aquariids meteor shower, come from an area out beyond Neptune and Pluto known as the Kuiper Belt.

But Comet SWAN is flying in from a zone in the furthest reaches of our solar region known as the Oort Cloud that stretches halfway to the nearest star.

“It’s coming in from 100,000 times further away than the distance between the Earth and the Sun,” explains Professor Horner.

The comet is travelling on a very elongated orbit that is approaching Earth from the south, which is why we get a better view of it as it travels in towards the Sun.

Diagram showing orbit of Comet SWAN
Comet SWAN has come in from the very margins of our solar system.(Supplied: NASA)

Once it has swung around the Sun on May 27, people in the northern hemisphere will get their best view.

“Comets are usually a bit better on their way out than on their way in,” Professor Horner says.

But the comet will be on the far side of the Sun, and the Northern Hemisphere is heading into mid-summer so the comet will appear in the dusk and will be harder to see.

“If this had come six months later the Northern Hemisphere would have got a spectacular show as it passed.”

“They’ll get a decent show, but we [in the Southern Hemisphere] are getting our best view of it over the next week.”

It is travelling so fast, it is unclear at this stage if it will ever return to our solar system or just shoot through.

And, even if it can be contained by the gravity of our solar system, it won’t be back for hundreds of thousands of years or longer.

What does it look like now?

As comets move closer in towards the Sun they heat up and the solids turn into gas and form a fuzzy halo around the nucleus known as a coma.

“Then the solar wind and solar radiation act on that gas and dust to push it away from the Sun and that’s how you get the tail,” says Professor Horner.

The tail of a comet always points away from the Sun.

“So when the comet is coming in [towards the Sun] the head’s in front and the tail is behind, but when it is going back outwards, the tail’s in front and the head is behind.”

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Comets usually have two tails — a gas tail and a dust tail — or they can have multiple tails if the nucleus is spinning.

The gas or ion tail, which appears a blueish-green colour, is created by the effect of ultraviolet radiation stripping away electrons.

Dust tails tend to occur as the comet gets closer to the Sun. They are usually yellowish as they reflect sunlight; and curved as they’re affected by radiation pressure, which is not as strong as the solar wind.

Comet SWAN currently looks like it is more gassy than dusty, says Professor Horner.

“It looks like this comet is actually kicking off a lot of gas,” he says.

“The gas tail has a kink in it because as you go through areas where the solar wind changes direction or is a bit gusty you get kinks and changes in the tail,” he said.

While the tail of Comet SWAN has been largely straight it has started to curve over the past couple of nights, Mr O’Donnell says.

“The last measurement I took showed an 11 degree tail. To give you some perspective that’s about 20 times the size of the full moon so it is huge,” he says.

Why are some comets brighter than others?

Comet McNaught
Comet McNaught in 2007 was the last great bright comet to grace our skies(Wikimedia Commons: fir0002/flagstaffphotos)

The last truly bright comet in the sky was Comet McNaught in 2007, a multi-tailed comet which cut a swathe through the evening twilight and could clearly be seen.

“The hope is that Comet SWAN as it moves closer to the Sun will continue to ablate material and become really, really bright,” Mr O’Donnell says.

Last month, before Comet SWAN suddenly appeared on the scene, astronomers had their hopes pinned on a comet called ATLAS.

This comet was a fragment of the Great Comet of 1844 that rocked up 180 years after the main event, Professor Horner says.

“It was very bright initially because being a chip off the old block it exposed a lot of volatile material from within the comet that hadn’t been previously exposed so it looked like it was much bigger.”

But smaller comets are more fragile than big ones, and it disintegrated as it got closer to the Sun.

Latest reports suggest Comet SWAN is starting to dim, but it is unclear whether it will go the same way as Comet ATLAS.

We don’t know how big Comet SWAN is because it was discovered when it was already blowing gas.

Usually, the bigger the comet the brighter it is, but small comets can also be very bright if they have lots of gas and dust coming off them.

“It’s fair to say it’s not going to be tens of kilometres across because … we probably would have found it earlier a bit further out.”

How to get a good shot of Comet SWAN

  • Try to find a dark spot in your backyard away from street or house lights.
  • After you’ve given your eyes 5 – 10 minutes to acclimatise to the dark, look directly to the east. “If you just point your camera dead east and take a long exposure you will find that green blob,” Mr O’Donnell says.
  • You don’t need any special camera, but DSLRs are preferred.
  • You can use any type of lens, but a long or a wide focus lens will give you the best results. “If you are using the longer lens you can get right into that nucleus and see the detail in the tail,” Mr O’Donnell says. But if you want to capture the whole tail then a wide-angle lens is better.
  • Use as high an ISO as possible, but if you use too high an ISO the image will be grainy. “I use 3200 for this comet,” Mr O’Donnell says.
  • The aperture should be as wide open as possible – the lower the number the better
  • Shutter speed will depend upon your lens. “If you are shooting wide then you can do 30 second exposures, but if you’re using a long lens and you’re zooming in I wouldn’t go more than 8 – 10 seconds.
  • Do a few test exposures first to see if you are capturing all of the comet. “If you centre the comet in the middle you might find that you’re chopping off the tail at the edge of the frame.”



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Schools are reopening, so here’s a guide to the situation in each state and territory


Government advice on whether students should attend schools amid the ongoing coronavirus situation varies widely across Australia, and has sometimes led to confusion and controversy.

Both New South Wales and Queensland today announced staged approaches to reopening their schools, but Victoria is standing firm about recommending against students returning to classrooms.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants all public schools to return to face-to-face learning by June.

Yesterday, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan accused Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews of taking a “sledgehammer” to the state’s education sector by refusing to reopen schools — comments he rescinded hours later.

Meanwhile, some states have never had restrictions on school attendance.

Here’s the latest on when schools will reopen in your state or territory, if they haven’t already.

New South Wales

The New South Wales Government wants students to attend one day a week from May 11 — the third week of term two.

For now, schools are open for students who need to attend but, where practical, parents are encouraged to keep their children at home.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said year 12 students would be the priority when public schools resume face-to-face teaching next week.

Gladys Berejiklian
Ms Berejiklian today announced face-to-face teaching would be phased back in from next week.(AAP: Bianca de Marchi)

They will attend full-time, while for other students there will be a staggered reopening.

“We anticipate next week that whilst most years will have a day or two of tuition, the vast majority of high schools have catered for extra classes for year 12, which is a very positive sign,” Ms Berejiklian said today.

The NSW Government said the phased approach would mean “there are a smaller number of students at school each day, providing more space to spread out”.

Health authorities closed Warragamba Public School, west of Sydney, for cleaning today after a seven-year-old boy tested positive for coronavirus.

Queensland

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a partial resumption of schools from next week, with kindergarten, prep, year 1 and years 11 and 12 to return to school on May 11.

The State Government said it would reassess the situation on May 15 and that, if everything had gone to plan, all students would return to classrooms later in the month.

“If low transmission rates continue, students from years 2 to 10 will be able return from May 25,” Education Minister Grace Grace said.

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a partial resumption of schools from next week.

The Premier said the plan was subject to change if there was an increase in coronavirus cases, or any new cases of community transmission or localised outbreaks.

“We know how important the early years are, and especially the senior school years,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“This has been an issue for a lot of people and I know it’s been really tough on parents at home.”

Ms Grace said it was essential for anyone who was unwell to stay away from schools.

Victoria

About 97 per cent of Victorian state school students are studying from home.

The State Government’s advice is that “all students who can learn from home must learn from home” — however, students who cannot learn at home can attend their regular schools.

While state schools are prepared to deliver classes online for all of term two, Premier Daniel Andrews said he was “open” to allowing students to return to classrooms before term three if medical evidence supported the move.

An exterior shot of Meadowglen Primary School.
Melbourne’s Meadowglen Primary School is closed after a teacher tested positive to coronavirus.(ABC News: Emilia Terzon)

Meadowglen Primary School, in Melbourne’s north, is closed today after a teacher tested positive to coronavirus.

The teacher at the Epping school returned a positive test to COVID-19 on Saturday and parents, carers and staff were notified yesterday morning.

The school will be closed for three days so it can be thoroughly cleaned and contact tracing can occur.

Western Australia

About 60 per cent of West Australian public school students returned to the classroom for the first day of term two last week, in what Premier Mark McGowan acknowledged was a “traumatic” time for parents, children and school staff.

Mr McGowan and Education Minister Sue Ellery said children should be encouraged to attend, but that parents had the option to keep them home if they wished.

Year 11 and 12 students were strongly advised to attend.

A boy carrying a green backpack arrives at primary school.
Students at Mount Hawthorn Primary in WA returned to school last week.(ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

The Association of Independent Schools (WA) executive director Valerie Gould said independent schools that had encouraged full attendance had reported a strong turnout of students but some were only opening for certain groups of students, such as years 11 and 12.

Catholic schools are encouraging year 11 and 12 students to attend school.

However, students from kindergarten to year 10 will continue with remote or online learning for at least the first four weeks of term, regardless of whether they attend class or not.

South Australia

Term two started last week, with health authorities assuring parents it was safe for students to return, after earlier facing accusations of mixed messaging.

South Australia’s Education Minister, John Gardner, expected the majority of students would return to face-to-face learning this term.

More than two-thirds of South Australian public school students attended classes in person last week, according to the State Government.

It is a big increase on the attendance rate at the end of term one, when barely a third of enrolled students were at school for face-to-face classes.

“A face-to-face learning environment gives them the opportunity to talk to their friends, to be able to access their teachers directly and utilise the learning environment that a school provides,” Mr Gardner said.

He said 23 per cent of students were learning from home in week one, but most of them are expected to return to face-to-face learning this week.

Gate and fence outside Unley High Scool.
Unley High School is one of several Adelaide schools to have had a confirmed case.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Schools in the Barossa Valley were closed for over a month due to two clusters of positive cases linked to tour groups.

“It’s been lonely here, working away and walking around the yard during the day, even our resident magpies were like ‘where is everyone?’ It’s just great to see everyone back,” St Jakobi Lutheran School principal Julian Helbig said.

Tasmania

Physical attendance rates at schools around the state have hovered around 20 per cent since the start of term two.

Premier Peter Gutwein today reiterated that parents should keep their children at home if they could.

“We will keep this under review as we work through the second term, but [those] remain the rules today,” he said.

Schools in Tasmania’s north-west reopened today, after a three-week coronavirus lockdown in response to a COVID-19 outbreak in the North West Regional Hospital.

An empty classroom filled with toys, and a cardboard truck with a koala and a kangaroo on board
An empty classroom at St Leonards Primary School in Launceston, where the majority of children are currently being schooled remotely.(ABC News: Fred Hooper)

Tasmania’s Education Department is prioritising a return to classrooms for early years and senior secondary students.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said school sites were safe but schools remain mostly closed to limit the movement of people in the community.

He told ABC Radio Hobart today the department had a recovery team working on plans to return students to classrooms when possible.

“They’re actually focusing on the areas of early years education and [years] 11 and 12 because we recognise that [for] 11-12 students, particularly our year 12 students, it’s tough enough anyway,” he said.

ACT

In the national capital, a handful of private schools will begin face-to-face classes next week.

But no return date has been set for public schools, which had planned to teach remotely for all of term 2.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has since indicated a softening of that approach, saying he would have more to say on Friday.

One approach under consideration is introducing classes for younger children first — starting with kindergarten, or year 7 in high schools — and gradually opening schools to older students.

But Mr Barr has ruled out the New South Wales model of one-day-a-week lessons, saying the hybrid system would not work.

“We need simple and clear arrangements in place,” he said.

Public school students returned to remote learning last week, with nine “hub” schools providing supervision to children of essential workers.

Just over 2,000 students — fewer than 5 per cent of public school enrolments — were registered to attend one of these hub schools, which are located across Canberra in Amaroo, Mawson and Majura, among other suburbs.

Mr Barr previously said the ACT had the nation’s best remote-learning system “by a country mile”, including free computers and internet access for students who need it.

Northern Territory

All schools are open and Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said students are expected to attend.

Schools have been asked to take extra hygiene measures, including increased handwashing, avoiding handshakes, and for school principals to “reconsider” all excursions during term two.

There have been no COVID–19 cases in Northern Territory schools.

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Funerals: The virus has changed how we say goodbye



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