A Covid news update from NSW (including some Halloween guidance), brought to you by AAP:
Dominic Perrottet says he’s confident the return of students and teachers to schools throughout NSW will go well despite the potential for COVID-19 outbreaks.
“We brought forward the date for most schooling to return tomorrow. That’s exciting for the kids and for the parents and also for the teachers,” the premier told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
“We’ve also said there will be challenges along the way. We know that, we’ve had a number of schools close but the alternative is to keep all schools closed.
“We’re not doing that.”
Asked about reports up to 160 schools throughout NSW had staffing issues as students returned, Mr Perrottet said he was aware there would be some shortages.
However 95 per cent of the state’s teachers had been vaccinated.
“I want to thank them for doing that because vaccination of our teachers has allowed us to open our schools as quickly as possible,” he said.
“We need our kids back learning again, we need our kids socialising and getting back to the school environment.
“I’m very confident that it will go well.”
The premier’s comments came as the state added 296 locally acquired infections to its COVID-19 caseload along with four deaths: two men in their 60s, one in his 70s and one in his 80s.
Three were unvaccinated and one fully vaccinated.
There have been 498 COVID-related deaths in NSW since June 16 and 554 in total since the start of the pandemic.
Some 480 people with the virus remain in NSW hospitals, 119 of them in intensive care and 67 of those in need of ventilation.
Health officials say almost 67,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday.
More than 93 per cent of NSW residents aged 16 or over have now received at least one vaccine dose, while 84.4 per cent have had both jabs.
Among 12-15-year-olds, 77.6 per cent have had their first dose and 48.8 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Pressed on the issue of teaching shortages, Mr Perrottet said education officials were working through a range of scenarios.
“There will always be teachers and people across our state who just decide not to get vaccinated,” he said.
“That’s their choice. We believe it’s a bad choice but ultimately, that success rate of 95 per cent has helped us get our kids back in the classroom.”
Meanwhile, Halloween enthusiasts are being warned to keep trick-or-treating COVID-safe next weekend.
“If you and your family are planning to celebrate Halloween this year … aim to keep the celebrations outside, provide closed packaging for treats and instead of communal lolly bowls consider other ways to distribute your treats,” NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty advised on Saturday.
One final point I missed earlier from the Victorian press conference, which has just finished.
The premier, Daniel Andrews, said that of the 146 people with Covid-19 who were in intensive care, 93% were not fully vaccinated.
Andrews is finished, with one final tidbit: he says that there will be an announcement made with his NSW counterpart, Dominic Perrottet, about reopening the border between the states soon.
Andrews is unapologetic about hardening the restrictions on those who are unvaccinated, making clear it is these people who are having the greatest impact on the health system. He says:
If you’ve made the choice, I’ll respectfully say the wrong choice…their job gets harder because you refuse to do yours.
Protect yourself, protect the people you love, participate in the economy.
The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, says the state’s public health team is “quite concerned” about the safety of the Park hotel, where a number of refugees and asylum seekers have contracted Covid-19.
He says there’s a lack of clarity about the appropriateness of the setting, which is managed by the federal government, and Foley expected to write to them today outlining the concerns of the state’s public health team.
There had already been a meeting between Victorian and federal authorities and the operator of the hotel, he said.
Guardian Australia reported on Friday that 15 of 46 men held at the facility had tested positive, and at least one refugee had been taken to hospital by ambulance.
Already some pushback to the changes announced in Victoria’s roadmap today. Andrews has made clear that those who are unvaccinated will have far more restrictions on them than previously outlined, and said these restrictions will exist through 2022. Hasn’t gone down well with some opposition MPs:
Andrews hopes to set record for the largest crowd since the pandemic
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, says that while there will be no limits on many settings from 24 November (the forecast date for reaching 90% vaccination), he says there needs to be individual requirements for specific venues, such as the MCG.
He said it could be that 80% capacity for major venues is the limit that is set, considering requirements for shared facilities and to protect children who may not have been vaccinated.
But he says that if there was a crowd of 80,000 for the Boxing Day test that would be the biggest crowd in Australia since the start of the pandemic.
Andrews is asked about boosters. He says there is still a lack of clarity about when they will be available, and who will be eligible to receive them, but internationally it seems clear that about six months after a second dose a third may be required. He says:
It’s my understanding the federal government will make some announcements about this quite soon.
It will be about the maintenance of your vaccination status.
Andrews isn’t really going into anything new here; he has reiterated that today’s announcement is about honouring the deal he made with Victorians that things would get back to normal if they got vaccinated. He also brings out a greatest hit:
We only had lockdowns, and these rules, because we didn’t have a vaccine.
Andrews is making clear that from 6pm on Friday those attending non-essential businesses must be vaccinated.
We’ve made the vaccinated economy…broader.
After Friday, all students will be back in the classroom. But it’s likely there will have to be masks in primary schools, because they will be treated as unvaccinated settings, given there’s no vaccine for children, Andrews says.
Once we hit 80% on Friday, the following school week, we will have all of our kids back, all of our kids back into the classroom learning face to face. It is a great opportunity to thank parents, think teachers and staff, and healthcare units for the amazing job that they have done. That is what 80% makes possible and in some settings masks will be appropriate, but I think the best way to look at primary schools is in effect because we don’t have a child vaccine, a children’s product, then that is an unvaccinated place, and therefore they will need to continue to be a range of measures that are not necessary in other settings.