More than 1100 teenage students in New South Wales have been ordered to self-quarantine from Friday after a year 11 boy tested positive for coronavirus.
Epping Boys High School in Sydney has been forced to close as authorities enact a “contact and containment strategy” after the 16-year-old student contracted the virus.
NSW Health advised students and staff to stay at home and self-isolate over the weekend as the high school contemplates whether it will be safe for them to return on Monday.
There are serious concerns for people who may have come into contact with the infected boy who began suffering moderate to mild symptoms of COVID-19 after he was exposed to a patient already identified by health authorities.
“I implore parents not to panic but to make sure your child stays home,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Friday.
“The young fellow … he is not bad, but he is not well.”
We wish to advise you that Epping Boys High School will not be operational tomorrow. A student at the school has…
Meanwhile another 17 children from Banksia Cottage childcare centre have undergone testing for coronavirus after visiting a Sydney aged care facility with confirmed cases, prompting advice against groups of children visiting nursing homes.
A 95-year-old female resident at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge at Macquarie Park has since died from the virus and two male residents, aged 82 and 70, are also infected.
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison extended travel bans to include South Korea which is experiencing the largest virus epidemic outside of China with more than 6000 confirmed cases and 35 deaths.
Four Australians are also among thousands of people in lockdown on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California that is being quarantined for coronavirus.
The Mexico-bound vessel originally had 22 people on board who were experiencing symptoms, with further investigations forcing 62 passengers and several crew members to be placed in isolation in their cabins.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the four Australians aboard the cruise ship will receive consular assistance should they request it.
Australian cases of coronavirus
The Northern Territory’s first case, believed to be a NSW man who travelled to Singapore, is among 53 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia.
Queensland recorded another two cases on Thursday and 15 medical staff at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital self-quarantined at home after coming into contact with an infected Chinese student.
Western Australia confirmed its third case and announced temporary precautions in Catholic churches that will result in holy water being removed and a ban on drinking from the chalice.
Tasmania, in the meantime, has opened a dedicated coronavirus clinic in the state’s north, where a man tested positive to the virus earlier this week.
South Australian authorities confirmed on Thursday that a baby boy had contracted COVID-19 after his 40-year-old mother had tested positive to the illness.
Meanwhile, more than 160 Australians who spent 18 days aboard the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship have finally been given the all-clear to return home after 45 days away, including more than a month in quarantine.
The evacuees said they had to reintroduce themselves on Thursday when they were allowed to take off their masks for the first time and did not recognise their fellow passengers.
Couple Chris Peck and Vicki Presland say it was deflating after being evacuated by the federal government when they were told they would have to be in quarantine for another two weeks.
“It took about an hour for me to get my brain into gear, then you go for it, put one foot in front of the other,” Ms Presland said.
Infections at the virus epicentre are dropping
Chinese researcher Professor Zhang Boli claims the number of new infections in the virus’ original epicentre, Wuhan, will drop to zero when March comes to a close.
In an interview with People’s Daily, he said almost all regions outside Hubei province – where Wuhan is the capital – had managed to halt the spread by the end of February.
Professor Boli, who is part of a research team trying to prevent and control the outbreak, estimated other cities in Hubei will hit such a target by mid-March, based on data on how the outbreak has evolved, but did not give details.
Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409.
Authorities reported 119 new cases the previous day and 125 the day before that.
Meanwhile, in the Middle East’s worst-affected country, Iran, all citizens have been urged to avoid using cash to prevent the virus from spreading.
“Cash should be especially avoided, because bank notes and coins could also be a danger,” health minister Saeed Namaki told a press conference in Tehran while laying out a plan to fight the spread of the disease across the country.
That included regularly disinfecting public places, including public transport and entrances to official buildings, as well as conducting tests on shoppers at the entrances to larger malls and in spot checks on highways.