NEWS
21/04/2020 10:35 AM AEST | Updated 21/04/2020 5:43 PM AEST

Coronavirus In Australia: NSW Schools To Reopen On May 11, Elective Surgery To Resume

Plus Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemns racist attacks against Asian Australians.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.  

Australia has at least 6,629 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. There have been 71 deaths.

The rate of increase in new cases has been below 1% for seven consecutive days - much lower than in many other countries.

There are more than 2.4 million confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, and more than 166,000 people have died from it, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

Here’s what is happening in Australia today:  

1. Some Elective Surgery To Resume After ANZAC Day

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced some elective surgery procedures will resume after ANZAC Day, April 25.

Restrictions will be relaxed around Category 2 or equivalent procedures in the private sector, and selected Category 3 and other procedures. 

These include, IVF, all screening programs, post-cancer restriction procedures such as breast reconstruction, dental and level 2 restrictions such as fitting dentures, braces, non-high-speed drilling and basic fillings.

Sam Mooy via Getty Images
Prime Minister Scott Morrison

All procedures for children under the age of 18, all joint replacements, including knee, hips, and shoulders, all cataracts and eye procedures, endoscopy and colonoscopy will also be permitted.

The PM said these measures will be subject to review on 11 May “to determine if all surgeries and procedures can then recommence more broadly”. 

Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said these new rules will make “an immense difference for families”. 

2. Aged Care Restrictions 

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said no one who is feeling unwell should enter an aged care facility’s premises. 

“You do not go into an aged care facility if you have the slightest respiratory symptom, a sore throat or a circle, you stay away,” he said at a Canberra press conference.

All aged care facility staff members are eligible for a Covid-19 test, and family members are still encouraged to visit their loved ones who are in care at these facilities, as long as they are healthy themselves. 

3. Scott Morrison Condemns Racism 

When asked about the increased wave of racist attacks, particularly towards Asian Australians during this pandemic, the PM said this behaviour is “not on”.

“Stop it. That’s my message. And I think that is the message of every Australian,” he told reporters. 

“Now is a time to support each other. And I would remind everyone it was Chinese Australians in particular who provided one of the greatest defences we had in those early weeks. They were the ones who first went into self-isolation.

“It was through their care, it was through their commitment, their patience, that the country was protected in the first wave,” he continued. 

“So absolutely I deplore that sort of behaviour against any Australian, regardless of their religion or ethnicity or whatever it happens to be.

“We have to call that sort of thing out. It’s not on.”

4. NSW Sets Date To Return To School: May 11

Students in New South Wales will start returning to school next month in much larger numbers amid a rapid decline in new coronavirus infections, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

Most schools across Australia have been shuttered for more than a month as part of efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19, despite sometimes conflicting advice from the federal government, which had wanted schools to stay open.

Children of emergency workers are among the few who have continued to go to school.

Berejiklian said students will begin to return to school on May 11 on a staggered basis in preparation for full-time schooling to re-start in July.

“It’s time to turn our mind to getting our kids back into the classroom,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

“We will have extra cleaning, extra sanitiser, extra health provisions, including forehead thermometers and also extra health equipment in our sick bays.” 

Australia is one of the few nations around the world to detail plans to re-open schools after infection rates plummeted from more than 25% in mid-March to its current level of less than 1% a day.

“From week three of term two, students will start going back to school. Initially, it will just be a day a week,” Berejiklian added. 

“And then progressively two days, and then we hope by the end of term two we’ll be in a position to have students going back to school in a full-time capacity by term three.”

Channel 7 Facebook Live
NSW Premier announces schools will re-open May 11.

NSW has recorded the most Covid-19 cases and reported just six new cases of coronavirus in the last day. Victoria recorded seven new infections, while Queensland documented six new cases.

The re-opening of schools has been a key demand of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who hopes it will stimulate Australia’s economy and allow parents to better juggle work commitments.

Education is run by Australia’s state and territory governments, which have switched to online teaching.

Morrison is scheduled to meet with state and territory leaders at the National Cabinet meeting later on Tuesday amid expectations restrictions on elective surgeries will be loosened.

Australia scrapped all non-emergency surgeries last month but many hospital beds are empty after the feared coronavirus spike has so far not materialised.

5. Easy does it in New Zealand

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures would be eased from next week.

NZ, which has a population of 5 million, introduced its toughest “level 4” measures in late March, shutting down offices, schools and all non-essential services - even take away food. 

From April 27 it will shift down to “level 3”: Construction, manufacturing and forestry businesses will be allowed to operate under the new rules, meaning hundreds of thousands can resume work. 

Moreover, swimming at the beach, fishing and some surfing, rambling and biking will be allowed.

Colin Packham and Jonathan Barrett of Reuters contributed to this report.