Adam Marshall’s complete guide to current COVID-19 standings as at April 16, 2020
There is finally some good news when it comes to COVID-19. In the Northern Tablelands, there have been NO new confirmed cases of the illness for more than a week, instead the number of cases is in decline. Our first three locals have been declared ‘recovered’ from COVID-19 by health authorities.
The couple near Emmaville, who were passengers on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, and a person in Armidale, who came into direct contact with another person have now all been removed from the current cases of coronavirus.
This is a positive change and means we now have only five current cases in the electorate, with three in Inverell Shire, one in Uralla Shire and another in the Armidale Regional Council area.
It is important we now start to see an increase in the number of people being tested for COVID-19, in particular in those communities which are yet to have a case. The testing criteria across the State has been broadened, so if have any of the four key symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, a cough, runny nose or shortness of breath – you should contact your GP, ring HealthDirect on 1800 022 222, or present yourself to your local hospital for testing.
I want to thank everyone for their co-operation in staying at home over the Easter long weekend. The daily decline in the number of new transmissions of COVID-19 is testament to the fact people are doing the right thing, however for that trend to continue we must ensure residents don’t get complacent and start travelling unnecessarily.
There are still some who are not doing the right thing. Over the four days New England Police issued 53 warnings to people who were out in the community without a reasonable excuse. Two Penalty Infringement Notices (PINS), one in Armidale and one at Glen Innes, were also issued for non-essential travel.
Since my last update there have been a number of State Government support measures announced which are aimed at easing financial pressure on families and businesses.
Parents whose children attend community preschool will not have to pay fees for the next six months. The NSW Government announced the $133 million funding package to cover these facilities which were not included in the Commonwealth’s childcare scheme. $82 million has also been made available to support council run childcare facilities, like the one at Guyra, which are not eligible for the JobKeeper payment.
In a positive move for many small businesses, over the next 12 months, those in the hospitality, construction and trade sectors will have their NSW Government licencing fees waived. This will hopefully provide operators with savings they can put towards employees’ wages.
A new same day text messaging service is about to launch, which will notify those who have been tested negative for COVID-19. This service will be made available through the Service NSW app and will mean people won’t have to self-isolate unnecessarily.
The Service NSW App also provides up-to-date information on COVID-19 and I urge everyone who wishes to stay informed during the pandemic to download it to their respective devices.
Until next time, take care and stay safe.
- Free Community Preschool
To access up-to-date information on the response to OCVID-19 visit:
National Coronavirus Helpline: 1800 020 080
NSW Public Health Order Information
Service NSW 24/7 hotline: 13 77 88
- runny nose
- shortness of breath
If you are sick and think you might have COVID-19, check your symptoms using healthdirect’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker.
If you want to talk to someone about your symptoms, call the National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080 or HealthDirect 1800 022 222.
If you have used the symptom checker and it advises you should look for help or get tested, seek medical help from a doctor or hospital – call ahead of time to book an appointment.
Tell the doctor about:
- your symptoms
- any travel history
- any recent contact with someone who has COVID-19
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELVES AND OTHERS:
Social distancing in public means people:
- stay at home unless is absolutely necessary
- keep 1.5 metres away from others
- avoid physical greetings such as handshaking, hugs and kisses
- use tap and pay instead of cash
- travel at quiet times and avoid crowds
- avoid public gatherings and at risk groups
- practise good hygiene
Steps for social distancing in all homes include:
- stay at home unless going out is absolutely necessary
- reduce visits to the shops — instead, buy more goods and services online if you can for pick-up, pre-order or delivery
- carefully consider what travel and outings are necessary, both individual and family
- regularly disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot, such as tables, kitchen benches and doorknobs
- increase ventilation in the home by opening windows or adjust air conditioning
You should stay at home unless:
- shopping for essentials
- medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements
- travelling to and from work – where you cannot work from home
- going to school or study
- exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirement
You need to self-isolate in your home or hotel room if you have:
- travelled overseas in the last 14 days
- been in close contact with a person sick with COVID-19 infection
People who are over the age of 70, the age of 60 with a pre-existing health condition and indigenous people over the age of 50, are also being encouraged to self-isolate to protect their health.
Limits on public gatherings and current restrictions on business and travel:
The following facilities were restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:
- pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
- gyms and indoor sporting venues
- cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos and night clubs
- restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
- religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies)
From 12:00am on 26 March, these restrictions will extend to the following facilities.
- food courts (except for take away)
- auction houses, real estate auctions and open houses
- personal services ( beauty, nail, tanning, waxing and tattoo salons)
- spa and massage parlours, excluding health related services such as physiotherapy
- amusement parks, arcades and play centres (indoor and outdoor)
- strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues.
- galleries, national institutions, historic sites and museums
- health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, bathhouses and wellness centres and swimming pools
- community facilities such as community halls, libraries and youth centres, RSL and PCYC
- gaming and gambling venues
- Caravan parks and camping grounds are closed to the public but remain open to, staff, permanent residents, overnight travellers, persons living in the local area, people who have no other place of permanent residence or whose primary place of residence is temporarily unavailable
Playgrounds, skate parks and outside gyms in public places will be closed from 12:00am, 30 March 2020.
Food markets can operate. Having said that, if the market is on Council land, it’s ultimately a call for Council to make whether they allow it to go ahead.
Weddings can be conducted with no more than five people, including the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses. The 4 square metre rule and social distancing must be observed.
Funerals can be conducted with a maximum of 10 people, excluding the person/s necessary to conduct the service e.g. funeral director.
Personal training can be undertaken outdoors with no more than 2 people, including the trainer, with social distancing observed.
NSW Police have advised recreational fishing IS permitted, if people follow all other advice in relation to social distancing and gatherings of two or more people. This DOES NOT mean you can take your family camping over the Easter long weekend, as that would be deemed unnecessary travel.
An indoor gathering takes place within a single enclosed area (a single room or area).
Essential activities include:
- essential workplaces
- health care settings
- food shopping
- schools and universities
- public transport and airports
NSW Schools and Childcare
The health advice for NSW schools has not changed and schools will remain open.
Parents are encouraged to keep their children at home. If that choice is made parents must be responsible for their children’s conduct and make sure they adhere to social distancing.
Planning is underway for home learning in term two if needed.
The Federal Government has announced it will make childcare free, for parents who continue to work, and provide essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government will pay 50 per cent of the sector’s fee revenue up to the existing hourly rate cap based on a point in time before parents started withdrawing their children in large numbers, but only so long as services remain open and do not charge families for care. The funding will apply from 6 April based on the number of children who were in care during the fortnight leading into 2 March, whether or not they are attending services.
The system will be reviewed after one month, with an extension to be considered after three months. The payments will be paid in lieu of the Child Care (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy payments.
Until the payments arrive, the Commonwealth is allowing services to waive gap fees for families who keep their children home, and families will be able to use the 20 extra absence days the government has funded for coronavirus related reasons without giving up their place in a child care centre.
If families have terminated their enrolment since 17 February, they are encouraged to get back in contact with their centre and re-start arrangements. Re-starting the enrolment will not require parents to send their child to childcare and it won’t require them to pay a gap fees. Re-starting your enrolment will, however, hold a place for that point in time when things start to normalise.
Parents whose children attend community preschools will have their fees covered for the next six months by the NSW Government.
The funding will be available to 700 State-funded community preschools and 38 mobile services to support the care and education of more than 45,000 three to five-year-olds.
The government has also committed up to $82 million to support 260 council childcare centres, which are not eligible for the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper payments.
State border restrictions
Several States and Territories now have strict border restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. If you intend to travel interstate, investigate what measures are in place in that jurisdiction before embarking.
It is important to note the Queensland Government has again tightened restricted entry into Queensland.
New restrictions will apply from Friday 12.01 am Friday 3 April 2020 which will only allow Queensland residents and those considered an ‘exempt person’ to cross the border.
Restrictions preventing interstate FIFO workers (except for certain positions in certain resource industries) apply from 11.59pm Saturday 4 April 2020.
Exemptions are in place for border communities like Mungindi, Boggabilla, Toomelah and Bonshaw, which rely on Queensland businesses to do their grocery shopping, attend medical appointments and work.
Quarantine exemptions are in place for those living outside of Queensland who provide services including transport of goods and freight including food, agribusinesses, essential health services, emergency services, maintenance and repair for critical infrastructure, energy, mining or government workers who perform official duties.
Border residents needing to access essential services in Queensland NOW must apply for a border pass, which they will need to present if asked for by the authorities.
To access a border pass visit the Queensland Government’s website.
TAFE NSW has paused the delivery of training and educational delivery from Monday 30 March 2020, with plans to resume on Monday 27 April 2020.
From 27 April, TAFE NSW will re-commence delivery to students through connected and blended delivery. This may include face to face delivery where necessary and where adequate social distancing measures can be implemented.
There will be some exceptions to the pause. TAFE Digital courses and practical delivery of training for critical skills areas, such as aged care and enrolled nursing, for students that are due to complete before the end of term 1 will continue.
Updates on TAFE NSW operations can be found at https://www.tafensw.edu.au/urgent-updates#coronavirus
TAFE NSW free short courses
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TAFE NSW, in conjunction with the NSW Government, is offering a number of fee-free short courses that can be completed in just days or weeks, offering practical skills and experiences across a range of industries.
Courses are in the areas of:
- Develop Administration Skills
- Enhance Your Digital Impact
- Grow Health and Medical Knowledge
- Improve Leadership Performance
- Practical Business Skills
More information can be found at https://www.tafensw.edu.au/fee-free-short-courses
Commercial and Residential Tenancies
The National Cabinet has agreed to a moratorium on evictions over the next six months for commercial and residential tenancies in financial distress who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.
Commercial tenants, landlords and financial institutions are encouraged to sit down together to find a way through to ensure that businesses can survive and be there on the other side
As part of this, National Cabinet agreed to a common set of principles, endorsed by Treasurers, to underpin and govern intervention to aid commercial tenancies as follows:
- a short term, temporary moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent to be applied across commercial tenancies impacted by severe rental distress due to coronavirus
- tenants and landlords are encouraged to agree on rent relief or temporary amendments to the lease
- the reduction or waiver of rental payment for a defined period for impacted tenants
- the ability for tenants to terminate leases and/or seek mediation or conciliation on the grounds of financial distress
- commercial property owners should ensure that any benefits received in respect of their properties should also benefit their tenants in proportion to the economic impact caused by coronavirus
- landlords and tenants not significantly affected by coronavirus are expected to honour their lease and rental agreements
- cost-sharing or deferral of losses between landlords and tenants, with Commonwealth, state and territory governments, local government and financial institutions to consider mechanisms to provide assistance.
Keeping people in jobs and helping businesses stay afloat
The NSW Government has released the second stage of its economic package aimed at keeping people in jobs, helping businesses and supporting our most vulnerable in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The creation of a $1 billion Working for NSW fund to sustain business, create new jobs and retrain employees. The fund is already being put in to action with 1000 new staff for Service NSW announced this week to be funded by the program. The Working for NSW fund will comprise $750 million in new funding and $250 million announced last week for additional cleaning services.
- Deferral of payroll tax for business with payrolls over $10 million for six months (up to $4 billion deferred). Businesses with payrolls of $10 million or less received a three-month waiver on payroll tax in the first package. These businesses will now get an additional three month deferral as well.
- Deferral of gaming tax for clubs, pubs and hotels, and lotteries tax for six months, conditional on these funds being used to retain staff. This improves liquidity and helps these businesses stay afloat.
- Deferral of the parking space levy for six months.
- Deferral of rents for six months for commercial tenants with less than 20 employees in all Government-owned properties.
NSW Government small business support package
Small businesses affected by restrictions implemented due to COVID-19, will be able to apply for grants of $10,000, to support with fixed costs.
Eligible businesses will need to have between 1 and 19 employees, a turnover of more than $75,000, and a payroll below the NSW government 2019-20 payroll tax threshold of $900,000.
The funds must be used for unavoidable business costs such as utilities, overheads, legal costs and financial advice. Service NSW will administer the scheme, which will open within a fortnight and operate until June 1.
This is the largest assistance support package for small businesses in NSW’s history and looks after those businesses which are not able to access payroll tax waivers.
Northern Tablelands Business Directory
I am committed to ensuring as many local businesses as possible are able to stay open, or have the ability to reopen once the pandemic ends. In a bid to give local businesses a helping hand during this difficult time I am establishing a Northern Tablelands Business Directory, where operators can promote their contactless pickup, take away or home delivery services.
If you are a supermarket, café or takeaway store, pharmacy, medical service, petrol station, not-for-profit or tradesperson and if you are continuing to operate, I want to hear from you.
To take part in the Northern Tablelands Business Directory, send an email to email@example.com and provide your business or service’s trading name, address, contact number, trading hours and a brief description of the current services you provide.
The list of businesses will be promoted on my Facebook page and through my regular COVID-19 Updates and Weekly Report.
On 30 March 2020, the Government announced the $130 billion JobKeeper Payment package for eligible businesses, which may include sole traders, whose turnover had reduced by more than 30 per cent if they have a turnover of less than $1 billion or by more than 50 per cent if they have a turnover of more than $1 billion. Businesses subject to the Major Bank Levy will not be eligible.
Following registration by the eligible business, the Government will provide $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee for a maximum of 6 months. This will support employers to maintain their connection with employees. Please see the Supporting businesses to retain jobs fact sheet for more information on this measure.
Every worker will get the same payment regardless of the regular wage of the employee, with the payment applicable to employees which have already been stood down and casuals who have been with the employer for twelve months.
The subsidy will start on 30 March 2020, with the first payments to be received by employers in the first week of May. Businesses will be able to register their interest in participating in the Payment from 30 March 2020 on the ATO website.
For more information on the Federal Government’s stimulus package visit: https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/resources
The Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This supplement will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the eligible payment categories.
These changes will apply for the next six months.
The income support payment categories eligible to receive the Coronavirus supplement are:
- Jobseeker Payment1 (and all payments progressively transitioning to JobSeeker Payment;
- those currently receiving Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance and Wife Pension)
- Youth Allowance
- Parenting Payment (Partnered and Single)
- ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
- Farm Household Allowance
- Special Benefit recipients
Anyone who is eligible for the Coronavirus supplement will receive the full rate of the supplement of $550 per fortnight.
The Coronavirus supplement will commence from 27 April 2020.
Driver testing across NSW has been postponed for a minimum period of 2 months. This change comes into effect immediately, and applies to all practical driver assessments conducted by Service NSW.
Note: This does not apply to assessments conducted via the Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment Program or any other assessment provider outside of Service NSW.
Aged driving assessments will be deferred for a minimum period of 3 months.
Holders of a current overseas licence who have become permanent residents now have 6 months to convert to a NSW licence.
For more detailed information visit https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/driver-testing-and-covid-19 “
Drivers licence renewals
Customers trying to renew their licence online, who need an eyesight test can contact Transport for NSW (TfNSW) on 6604 9301 to have the requirement removed, and enable the transaction to continue.
Eligible customers who are subject to a medical review may be able to have an extension granted to allow them to have the medical assessment performed by a GP and the medical submitted at a later date. These customers should also contact TfNSW on 6604 9301.
Reporting suspected self-isolation breaches
Crime Stoppers NSW is the best and most appropriate way to report any breaches or concerns around people acting contrary to self-isolation or Heath orders.
Crime Stoppers NSW can be contacted on 1800 333 000 or you can use their website https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/
Under the NSW Public Health Act, NSW Police now have new penalties which they will enforce to ensure people adhere to social distancing measures.
In the case of an individual, the maximum penalty is $11,000, or imprisonment for 6 months, or both and a further $5500 penalty may apply for each day the offence continues. The NSW Police may also issue on-the-spot fines of $1000 for an offence.
Additional COVID-19 information
Those in the community seeking regular, official, updates on COVID-19 can now download the Coronavirus Australia app. This app provides health advice to help stop the spread of the illness, a snapshot of the official status within Australia, symptoms check, relevant contact information and urgent updates from the Australian Government.
The app is available for Android on Google Play and for Apple at the Apple App Store. I urge people to jump on their devices and download it.
The Federal Government has launched a WhatsApp feature, which will provide similar information to users of that platform. WhatsApp can also be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Media Release: April 16, 2020