SYDNEY - Australia ordered its first school closure on Friday after a 16-year-old Epping Boys High School student tested positive for the coronavirus, as authorities struggle to contain the outbreak in the country.
Australia has recorded 60 cases of infection and two elderly people have died from the virus.
While the majority of people contracted the disease overseas before returning home, Australia is on heightened alert as coronavirus begins to spread locally.
Desperate to ensure coronavirus doesn’t spread, Australia ordered the closure of Epping Boys High School in the city’s north for at least one day, while the nearly 1,200 pupils and staff will need to quarantine themselves.
“Students at the school are advised to stay at home and self-isolate over the weekend,” New South Wales (NSW) state government said in an emailed statement.
“Staff are also asked to stay at home and self-isolate. The school will provide a further update over the weekend about next steps.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the teenager is believed to have contracted the virus through contact with another coronavirus patient, making his case another local transmission.
The closure comes as Australia’s government readies to announce a stimulus package to cushion the economic hit of the virus.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the multi-billion dollar package would target sectors most affected by the coronavirus.
Local media on Friday reported the government was considering subsidising wages for small- and medium-sized businesses amid fears of widespread job losses that could lead to a recession.
The Australian government on Thursday banned the arrival of foreigners from South Korea, tightening its border controls in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus as it recorded its second death from the illness.
“It affords the best protection and enables us to slow down the rate of transmission,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, as health officials said a worst case scenario for the virus’ spread was the infection of millions of people within weeks.
Australia was one of the first countries to take a hardline approach to tackling the coronavirus outbreak, imposing border controls on visitors from the epidemic’s epicentre in China just over a month ago.
The new travel restrictions mean that any foreign traveller who has been in China, Iran and South Korea - all countries that have reported large outbreaks of the coronavirus - within two weeks of arriving in Australia will be turned away. The bans will be reviewed on a weekly basis.
Australian nationals and residents are exempt from the bans, but are required to self-isolate for two weeks on their return to Australia.
Travellers from Italy will be given temperature checks and required to completed a detailed health questionnaire before they are cleared for entry.
Coronavirus Cases In Australia
Australia has recorded 53 cases of the coronavirus, the majority of those people who contracted the disease overseas before returning home for treatment. However, concerns are growing about the likelihood of a more rapid spread given at least five people contracted the illness locally.
An elderly woman who became the country’s second fatality this week picked up the virus from a worker at her aged care home, making her death the first from local transmission. Health authorities have confirmed another resident at the facility has tested positive, despite not coming into contact with the infected worker.
Reporting by Colin Packham.