Australia’s Victoria Wants Schools Shut Early Amid Pandemic

March 22, 2020COVID-19
Australia’s Victoria Wants Schools Shut Early Amid Pandemic
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media in Melbourne, Australia, on March 17, 2020. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Schools in Victoria will close from Tuesday as the state begins to shut down non-essential activity to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Victoria will join NSW in shutting down all non-essential activity across the state to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says school holidays will be brought forward to start on Tuesday.

The step comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in Victoria has risen to 296, after 67 people were confirmed as being infected on Saturday.

“This is not something that we do lightly, but it’s clear that if we don’t take this step, more Victorians will contract coronavirus, our hospitals will be overwhelmed and more Victorians will die,” Andrews said in a statement.

“Victorians will still be able to go to the supermarket, the bank, the pharmacy and other essential stores, like petrol stations and convenience stores.”

He said freight, logisitics and home delivery were also considered essential and would remain open.

A decision whether to re-open schools after the term one holidays will be determined following advice from the Chief Health Officer.

I will have more to say on these measures tomorrow morning.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced earlier on Sunday her state would undertake a “comprehensive shutdown” of non-essential services, with supermarkets, petrol stations, and pharmacies among businesses to stay open.

While schools will also remain open on Monday, the premier said she is planning to make further announcements on schools on Monday following a cabinet meeting tonight with federal and state officials.

The developments come as food packages are set to be distributed to Victorians in mandatory self-isolation, who don’t have friends and family who can readily help them get supplies.

The state government will start distributing two weeks worth of food to eligible households with little or nothing in their pantries from Monday.

“I’m encouraging people to look elsewhere…but this is very much for those who are isolated and very much need our support,” Disability, Ageing and Carers Ministers Luke Donnellan told reporters on Sunday.

About 10,000 households are expected to need the packages, but more will be provided if needed.

People can register their need for the emergency relief packages by calling Victoria’s coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 from Monday.

The packages will contain items such as long-life milk, pasta, cereal, canned vegetables, and sugar.

Personal care packages containing soap, toothpaste and deodorants will also be available for eligible households, while some other items – such as nappies and baby formula – may be sent to homes that need them.

The program is being run by the Red Cross, in partnership with Foodbank Victoria, under the direction of the State Relief Coordinator.

Victoria has recorded 296 cases of COVID-19, after 67 new cases were confirmed on Sunday.

The new cases include 42 men and 25 women, with people aged from late teens to early eighties.

There are a number of people in hospital and are least three in intensive case.

Three of the 296 cases could have been obtained through community transmission.

Donnellan urged people to take heed of social distancing advice, saying they needed to think about others and not themselves.

“If we don’t work together, we will all fall together,” he said.

An A$1.7 billion package was unveiled by the Victorian government on Saturday to help businesses cope with the impacts of coronavirus.

Small businesses will get full refunds on their payroll tax bills for the rest of the financial year, and a A$500 million will be created to help people who’ve lost their jobs find new work.

By Marnie Banger

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