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NSW considers imminent lockdown as virus cases jump


The NSW government says it’s prepared to order a statewide lockdown this weekend if necessary, as it listed coronavirus infection from “unknown sources” among the rising number of cases.

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The number of virus deaths in Australia stands at 13, with confirmed cases rising to 2799 overnight.

There have been 370 new cases since Wednesday, compares with 290 in the previous 24 hours.

NSW accounted for 190 new cases, with a total of 1405 on Friday, including two girls aged one and two.

While 877 of the total were infected overseas, 278 were infected locally from contact with a confirmed case or a known cluster.

But the source of infection for 145 – more than half of those locally acquired – is unknown, causing great concern amongst health authorities.

Some 16 patients are in intensive care, with 10 requiring ventilators.

“The one figure that we are most worried about is the number of people that are getting it within the community,” NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian Berejiklian said on Friday.

She said the government was “looking very closely” at the impact of Monday’s shutdowns on pubs, cinemas and churches – and if they weren’t sufficient, further action would be taken.

The main criterion by which success would be judged was community-to-community COVID-19 transmissions, rather than total case numbers.

“I’m saying to the community that if we’re not convinced we’ve had a sufficient amount of success, NSW will have to take further action and that’s a position I’ve been clear on from day one,” Berejiklian said.

The ACT has said it will follow whatever action NSW decides.

It comes as northern NSW residents called for the border with Queensland to shut.

“I don’t understand why we are not having a national lockdown,” Tweed mayor Katie Milne said.

Byron Shire Council deputy mayor Sarah Ndiaye said residents wanted the NSW border closed.

“We’re a hot spot for visitors but we don’t want to be a hot spot for the virus,” she said.

Australia has tested more than 178,000 people and deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly says the rate of positive tests is low at about 1.5 per cent.

Kelly said millions of masks are expected to arrive in Australia over the coming months.

“We have already now had eight million that we are putting out … to primary health networks, to our general practitioners, but also to our fever clinics that are expanding across the country,” he said.

Woolies hiring as businesses shut down

Businesses across Australia have closed in the wake of restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus, leading to up to a million people losing their jobs.

Woolworths on Tuesday stood down 8,000 workers following the government ban on pubs, clubs and hotels, and postponed the separation and spin-off of its Endeavour division until 2021.

But a rush on supermarket has prompted the firm to announce plans to hire up to 20,000 workers.

It said today it had placed around 3,000 of its stood-down ALH Group team members in new roles across its BWS, Dan Murphy’s and Woolworths Supermarkets and is preparing to offer up to 5,000 short-term roles to Qantas employees taking leave without pay.

The roles in its supermarkets, e-commerce, supply chain and drinks businesses are expected to be filled in the next month.

“These are uncertain times for many industries and we have an important role to play keeping Australians employed through this crisis,” Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said in a statement on Friday.

“These new roles will not only help us better serve the increase in demand we’re seeing in stores right now but also allow us to scale up home delivery operations in the months ahead.”

Coles supermarkets earlier this month offered 5,000 jobs to help better capitalise on the rampant buying of food and household goods.

It’s understood clothing chain Kathmandu will stand down about 2,000 Australian store and head office staff, with the exception of a skeleton crew, without pay for four weeks.

Kathmandu has about 170 stores in Australia and NZ, and more than 100 Rip Curl stores.

Kathmandu had already closed stores in regions including Brazil, Europe, New Zealand and North America.

On Thursday, Premier Investments – which owns the Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Portmans and Just Jeans stores – stood down 9,000 workers around the world.

Jewellery chain Lovisa and Athlete’s Foot owner Accent Group on the same day temporarily closed 400 stores and 500 stores respectively.

Accent, which also owns the Platypus and Hype shoe chains, will stand down a reported 5,000 staff.

Mosaic Brands – the owner of Noni B, Rivers and Katies – said it will stand down 6,800 employees across 1,300 stores while Michael Hill Jewellers earlier this week announced it would shut 300 stores, including 165 in Australia.

The travel industry has suspended larger numbers of workers.

Qantas has stood down 20,000 of its 30,000 workers, and Virgin Australia has done the same for 8,000 workers.

Flight Centre says an initial 6,000 of its global sales and support staff globally will either be stood down or made redundant.

FFA stands down staff

Football Federation Australia will stand down approximately 70 per cent of its staff days after suspending the A-League, in a bid to keep itself financially viable.

“Virtually all football activity has now ceased for the foreseeable future because of COVID-19,” chief executive James Johnson said.

“These developments impact many forms of revenue for FFA, including national registration fees, broadcast fees, sponsorship, ticket sales and government funding, so we have needed to adjust our operations to ensure that we can remain operational.”

It’s understood the decision could affect up to 160 people, with the federation directly employing 230 staff.

Johnson said a small number of staff would stay on during the pandemic to maintain operations and communication with the community.

“We view this as a temporary stoppage of football,” he said.

“We will be continually reviewing the situation and the impact of COVID-19 on grassroots football and the remainder of the Hyundai A-League season.

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