Following a jump in the number of coronavirus cases overnight, people in New South Wales have been issued with a stern warning from the states chief health officer. Out of Australia’s 149 confirmed virus infections, 77 of those are in NSW – where two of the nation’s three deaths from coronavirus have also occurred.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now declared the global crisis a pandemic, saying it is “deeply concerned” by the alarming levels of spread, severity and inaction.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Thursday morning that the public needs to pay attention to key messages to help control the virus’ spread.
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“The first is please do not go to work if you’re unwell,” she said.
“If you’re a returning traveller, please, if you become unwell with respiratory symptoms, present for testing.
“Please, all members of the community, ensure that you adhere to the hygiene messages and these simple steps will prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”
Dr Chant said 34 of the cases in NSW had travelled overseas, 32 were people who had been in contact with confirmed cases and four were from unknown sources.
“Those cases are being thoroughly interviewed to ensure that we can identify any links to other confirmed cases to build up our picture,” she said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian added that while they were asking people to take extra precautions and “consider how they move around”, there was no need for the community to panic.
“There’s no need to panic, to massively change what you are doing,” she said. “But it is not business as usual.”
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The Premier added that the government would this week discuss with her counterparts at the Council of Australian Governments the possibility of shutting down schools, universities and events.
“I want to also assure our citizens that in order for us to keep you as safe as possible our advice might change,” she said.
“So what you hear today might be different from tomorrow, might be different the next day.”
She said that the government was considering whether the popular Sydney Easter Show, which runs from April 3 until April 14, should go ahead.
“As of today, the best advice we have is it should go ahead however we are asking people to self-exclude if they are in high risk categories,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“If you do attend those mass gatherings, we ask you to be aware of space, hygiene and your own activity to make sure you don’t contract or infect someone else.”
NSW Health said that COVID-19 clinics will be opened in all local health districts to diagnose patients with symptoms.
The Royal North Shore, Royal Prince Alfred, John Hunter and Nepean hospitals will soon have the capacity to test for COVID-19 infections, the department said.
Currently only Prince of Wales, Westmead and Liverpool hospitals are able to test for the virus.
– With AAP