NEWS
17/04/2020 9:18 AM AEST | Updated 17/04/2020 4:54 PM AEST

'Be Honest': Health Authorities Double Down On Contact Tracing Of Coronavirus In Australia

"It is a crucial way we can get to the bottom of what happens and to prevent others from developing illness," said Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

At least 6,400 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Australia and 65 people have died.

There are more than 2 million confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, and more than 140,000 people have died from it.

Here is what is happening in Australia with coronavirus today: 

1. ‘Honesty’ Will Help Contact Tracing, Says Authorities

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has asked people to “be honest” so authorities can ensuring tracing of Covid-19 cases can take place effectively.

Kelly was asked about the outbreak of cases in Tasmania’s north-west, as health authorities plan to test all staff and residents at three nursing homes after it was revealed a person who worked at one of these tested positive. 

Channel 7
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly

“I’m not going to going to the specifics of the north-west Tasmanian situation but I will definitely at this point encourage people to be honest and help with contact tracing whenever there are people involved,” he told media at a press conference.

“It is a crucial way we can get to the bottom of what happens and to prevent others from developing illness.

“And this has happened as well again in north-west Tasmania, to make sure we are protecting the most vulnerable people in the community, including those in residential age care.”

Earlier Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused a healthcare working of lying to authorities who were contact tracing.

“Someone down there was not telling the truth to contact tracers about who have they been in contact with,” the PM told Triple M’s Brian Carlton. “That puts people at risk.”

However, Tasmania’s director of public health Mark Veitch has said neither he nor his team had provided advice to the PM regarding this. 

2. NSW School Roster System Being Considered

NSW will consider a roster system for face-to-face teaching in schools with cement plans to be introduced in a month. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the first two weeks of term two will still be mostly at-home learning but the state government will consider introducing a system to rotate students through classrooms. 

ABC News
School Roster System For Face-To-Face Teaching In NSW

“From term three we will be announcing further changes or more face-to-face contact,” she told reporters on Friday. 

“This does not mean all students are going back. This does not mean all classrooms will be full.” 

Berejiklian explained a roster system will be likely put in place in the third week of term two but not every student will go back at once. 

The rostering system means some students will go back to school on particular days to increase face-to-face lessons because the alternative is that “students could face up to a year or longer at home and we don’t think that’s appropriate,” she said.  

3. Virgin Airlines Reinstates Minimal Domestic Schedule 

The federal government is spending $165 million to support Qantas and Virgin operate some domestic routes for the next eight weeks till June 7. 

“Today’s $165 million announcement is going to make the world of difference for those commuters who have come in from overseas, done their 14 days of quarantine,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told reporters in Canberra.

“Let me tell you, if they landed in Sydney and are required to get back to Perth with very limited services available, it is a long drive in a higher car, so that is going to make a difference for them.”

WILLIAM WEST via Getty Images
Planes from Australian airlines Tiger Air and Virgin sit idle on the tarmac at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport on April 12, 2020.

He said the government will reassess the situation after the next two months in terms of funding. 

Virgin Australia on Thursday suspended trading in its shares to continue talks on financial aid and restructuring alternatives to help it weather the coronavirus crisis.

According to The Australian Financial Review, two private groups are considering making approaches for Australia’s second-biggest airline.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “We want to have two airlines in Australia that are commercially viable”.

“I understand and know that there are all sorts of commercial discussions going on right now,” he told Radio 3AW on Friday. “And the worst thing I could do as a prime minister or as a government is get in the way of that.”

From Friday April 17, Virgin Australia will operate 64 return services each week.

The company said in a statement that the “minimal domestic schedule will enable Virgin Australia to reinstate some of its stood down flight, cabin and ground crew, along with other operational team members”.

4. Seven-Week-Old Baby Infected 

A baby born seven weeks ago is one of the 29 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in NSW.

“The baby is a close contact of known cases,” NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Friday.“The source of that infection for that family cluster is not known.”

Of the 29 new cases, three have been acquired overseas, 20 were acquired locally from a confirmed case or cluster, while the source of the remaining six is not known at this stage. 

“That really highlights the importance of that detective work I described yesterday about tracking down clusters and identifying all the cases linked,” said Dr Chant. 

With additional reporting by Reuters.