The NSW Government is injecting $25 million to fast-track statewide research and clinical trials to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic and reduce its impact on the community.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the funds are part of about $800 million in extra health funding by the NSW Government to bolster the health system.
“Already researchers in NSW have made huge inroads to improve diagnostics and potentially aid the eventual creation of a vaccine by growing the novel coronavirus,” Mr Hazzard said.
“The $25 million funding boost will further assist the collaborative research efforts of clinicians, universities and research hubs with crucial roles in the NSW COVID-19 response”.
The funding will be directed to research focused on:
accurate and timely diagnosis of COVID-19;
support conducting COVID-19 clinical trials including vaccine trials;
monitoring, developing and evaluating strategies to slow community transmission;
developing and evaluating treatments for COVID-19;
preventing the need for intensive medical care.
minimising the impact of physical and psychological trauma on the community.
The $25 million is on top of $108 million already invested in medical research in 2019-2020 and will help ensure all research findings on COVID-19 can be implemented rapidly.
The extra funding will also support clinician-led research into the COVID-19 impacts on the healthcare workforce, vulnerable populations and regional, rural and remote communities.
Professor Anthony Kelleher, Director of the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, said the institute is leading several research projects on COVID-19, including developing an antiviral therapy.
“The infectious disease expertise within the NSW medical research sector is truly world class, and we are eager to turn this investment into research that will transform this pandemic and ultimately save lives,” Professor Kelleher said.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said: “This funding will go a long way to progressing urgent research to minimise the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 in NSW.”
Progress on research
· ICPMR Westmead was the first lab in Australia to develop and introduce a blood antibody test for tracking the spread of COVID-19 and is working with researchers from The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance at Westmead and the Kirby Institute who will lead NSW studies of COVID-19 in schools, aged care, hospitals and the home.
· Westmead Institute researchers believe that they have found blood biomarkers that tell clinicians whether patients will need intensive care and are working with clinical trials experts from across NSW to integrate these markers in to critical studies of the course of COVID-19 and its transmissibility.
· Garvan and Kirby Institute researchers have developed a world-leading technology to identify the critical antibodies amongst the myriad produced by our immune cells when challenged by this virus - that could lead to a new treatments and diagnostic tests and are working with virology researchers at UNSW and Westmead
· University of Sydney researchers are at the forefront of research into how best to communicate information during epidemics prevent transmission of infection and into the psychological trauma that may result from managing this epidemic in Australia.
Australia’s brave fire, police, ambulance and emergency services volunteers and workers, along with Defence Force personnel and reservists and overseas personnel, will be eligible to receive a medal in recognition of their service and sacrifice during the current bushfire season.
The National Emergency Medal will be awarded to eligible emergency responders who have given sustained or significant service during the 2019-20 bushfires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while his priority was to help people and communities rebuild and recover from the bushfire disaster, it was also important that recognition was given.
“Today as we reflect on what makes our country the best place in the world, we also honour those Australians who have battled this devastating fire season, many of whom will be on fire grounds today protecting our communities from danger,” the Prime Minister said.
“The response to the bushfire situation has been unprecedented with thousands of volunteer and paid responders working around the clock, day and night, week after week to protect property and save lives.
“Their courage has been extraordinary, and it’s a spirit which we must honour and celebrate this Australia Day and one which we will now formally recognise through the National Emergency Medal.
“We will continue to do whatever it takes to support fire affected communities right across Australia to help them rebuild, recover and become even stronger.”
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton said while the detailed criteria for the National Emergency Medal will be determined in the coming months after consultation once the current crisis has passed, it is important that we acknowledge the extraordinary efforts and the sacrifice of our emergency services volunteers and personnel.
“It is fitting we honour our emergency service personnel and volunteers for their selflessness, bravery, courage and sacrifice - Australia thanks you for your service,” Mr Morton said.
The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), agreed to a recommendation from the Morrison Government that the 2019-20 bushfires be declared a nationally significant emergency for the purposes of the Medal.
The National Emergency Medal recognises service in response to a nationally‑significant emergency. Events must be declared by the Governor-General under the National Emergency Medal Regulations 2011, including specific criteria for the award.
At the conclusion of the ongoing response to the bushfires, the National Emergency Medal Committee will provide further advice, as required under the Regulations, to enable the formal declaration of the Medal for the 2019-20 bushfires including the specific criteria for eligibility.
The National Emergency Medal was established in 2011. More than 15,000 medals have been awarded to responders and volunteers to the 2009 Victoria bushfires that included Black Saturday and the Queensland floods that occurred over December to January 2010-2011, including Cyclone Yasi.
As Australians, we belong to an ancient land with a story that spans 60,000 years.
From the oldest continuing culture in the world, to our most modern chapter; all drawn on the sweat, struggle and courage of millions of ordinary citizens.
We are a people who prevail. Not through luck or chance or fortune, but by our efforts and our willingness to stand by each other. That’s why I’m so hopeful.
From the ancient to present day – we have attracted people from around the world to our shores to create our distinct and diverse culture.
Australia has had a difficult summer.
The horrific and unprecedented bushfires have claimed 33 lives – including nine brave firefighters – and destroyed over 2900 homes, with more than 10.4 million hectares burnt out.
It is an unprecedented environmental disaster, devastating ecosystems and wildlife, already suffering from prolonged drought, and exacerbated by our changing climate.
Such heartbreak defies words, and our love and thoughts are with every Australian impacted, especially those who have lost family and friends.
Yet in the worst of times, we can see the best in our country: the Australian volunteer spirit has shone this summer.
We’ve witnessed heroism, grace and generosity from Australians everywhere. A groundswell that this Australia Day calls us to reflect on our beautiful continent – and the unique way we look after each other when threats and challenges arise.
Our volunteering spirit recognises that being an Australian is about what you bring to the country.
We know that being Australian is about making a contribution, rather than taking one.
It’s about knowing that the rights and rewards of being an Australian are exceeded only by our individual responsibilities to our nation to make it even stronger.
So much of our nation’s character resides in the strength and vitality of thousands of local communities working together. A sum greater than its parts. In turn, these communities are dependent on the strength of the families and individuals who live alongside each other and support one another.
This unrelenting fire season, our volunteer fire services and emergency services volunteers have led the way. Their courage has been extraordinary, even as they grieved the loss of mates and colleagues.
On top of this, many have kept up the effort despite losing their own home or suffering property damage.
It’s a spirit which we must honour and celebrate this Australia Day.
Behind every volunteer there is a story of service and dedication.
One NSW volunteer firey Alex Newcombe was in the thick of it just 12 weeks after a kidney transplant. His donor was none other than his wife Kate – a fellow firefighter in the same brigade.
Our volunteers have been joined by the Australian Defence Force, with almost 6500 men and women assisting our fire efforts. For the first time in our history, the Government has enacted a compulsory call-out of the ADF Reserve Brigades with about 3,000 Reservists.
One of those called-out was Lieutenant Kynan Lang from the 10th/27th Battalion. On the day the call came through to be part of Operation Bushfire Assist, Kynan was at home, shattered because he had just been told he’d lost his uncle and cousin in the Kangaroo Island fires.
Lieutenant Lang didn’t blink when he got the call. He packed his kit and joined the deployment to Kangaroo Island.
It’s what Australians all over have done all summer long, rallying behind each other with courage, sacrifice, generosity and resilience.
Like the more than 150 truckies who formed a convoy to bring supplies and smiles to Buchan and Omeo in East Gippsland.
Among them were cattle farmers, diesel mechanics, tree loppers and beekeepers.
They were dubbed an “army of angels”.
Also on the road was a group of Muslim men from Auburn, who loaded their ute with 30kg of sausages and drove six hours to cook a barbecue for the devastated community of Willawarrin in northern NSW.
And the Sydney to Casino XPT train made a special unscheduled stop one day in Rappville to deliver five-gallon drums of lollies for children.
Communities have also welcomed those in need with open arms.
Cricket ovals, showgrounds and community halls across Australia have become evacuation centres. Churches and RSL clubs are offering shelter and meals. The CWA, Lions, Rotary, and Apex Clubs are all lending a hand.
At the Queanbeyan Showgrounds, scores of people from the Snowy Mountains and the south coast are being supported. Donations have rolled in: prams and phone chargers, toys, DVDs and home-cooked meals. Teenagers have turned up with hot pies after their Saturday holiday jobs and the local pound offered shelter for pet dogs.
Australians, wherever they are, are putting up their hand and donating generously: millions of dollars have been raised for charities including the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul to provide food, fuel and cash.
Small businesses are pitching in too – using general stores as collection points, opening early to give victims clothes to wear, offering water or meals to fireys, and baristas donating their tips. We’ve seen many big businesses playing their part – Telstra, for example, paying the mobile phone bills of firefighters, and Qantas has been flying firefighters and equipment to fires for free. All the big businesses are contributing.
The children of this country are simply fantastic: running cake stalls, sending love and encouragement and shaking down their parents as well. One nine-year-old sent me her $10 holiday pocket money and asked if I could get it to the families who lost homes.
On a quiet street in Port Douglas, Queensland, two young boys set up a lemonade stand to raise money.
The local police intervened, but only insofar as to move them to a more “strategic” location – right next to a roadside breath-testing site.
After clearing their tests 50 drivers were served lemonade before the supply ran dry, with $380 raised. Our country’s kids are incredible, and it gives me such confidence about the future.
In Gippsland, the owners of an Indian restaurant have been cooking thousands of free meals of curry and rice for bushfire victims.
In Bega in NSW, a Sudanese refugee offered his own home to a family that was sheltering overnight in an underground car park to escape falling embers.
While back on Kangaroo Island, a pair of teenage cousins gathered frightened and injured koalas into their car, echoing efforts by wildlife rescue and rehabilitation charity WIRES and others who have come to the aid of fauna across the country.
Meanwhile, our business leaders, sportspeople and entertainers are doing what they do best: Andrew and Nicola Forrest, Celeste Barber, Paul Ramsay Foundation, Chris Hemsworth, Kylie, Ash Barty, Nick Kyrgios and The Wiggles among those who are fundraising or digging deep.
And as a Government we will do whatever it takes to support those communities and businesses hit by these fires. Right now we are providing immediate financial assistance to those that need it, while our $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund will help communities to recover and rebuild.
We will continue to support all Australians in their time of need, and whatever it takes means just that.
Everybody has been touched by what has happened – and we have witnessed 25 million acts of bravery, generosity and kindness. That’s what we celebrate today: the good-hearted people that make us Australia.
Our willingness to generously support each other is a reflection of the gritty practicality that has always been part of our national character.
And that is what our national volunteer spirit serves: our communities, and the families and individuals they comprise.
No country is perfect and none have a perfect history. But we have goodwill and generosity, and strive to help each other out.
This is the greatness of Australia, and the strength of Australia – the way we treat and take care of each other.
It is why, when tragedy strikes, we can look to the horizon and emerge a stronger nation.
In the midst of our country’s struggles this is the character that we celebrate and honour today.
Happy Australia Day!
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia.
With students returning to school next week, parents of children who have had contact with a confirmed case of novel Coronavirus are being urged to keep their children at home and monitor for symptoms.
NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant explained that any child who has been in contact with a person confirmed as having novel coronavirus must not attend school or childcare for 14 days after the last contact with the infected person.
“14 days represents the internationally recognised incubation period for the disease,” Dr Chant said.
“After this time the child is considered to be not be at risk of infection.”
Students who have travelled to Wuhan and Hubei during the school holidays can return to school but should be carefully monitored for symptoms of coronavirus infection.
“The most common symptom is a fever,” Dr Chant said.
“Other symptoms include, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.”
Anyone who exhibits these symptoms should be isolated immediately from other people and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you develop a fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel to Hubei or contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, you should immediately isolate yourself from other people. Contact your GP or your emergency department or call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222 and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard explained that NSW Health has processes in place to identify any close contacts of cases confirmed in Australia.
“Advice about not attending school would be provided to these close contacts,” he said.
There are currently four confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in NSW. All cases had travelled to Wuhan, China or had contact with a confirmed case in China.
Parents with concerns can contact their local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for advice or visit the dedicated NSW Health information page at https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx
NSW Department of Education has issued guidance to all NSW Schools, which included information to guide school staff in the event of a child becoming sick.
The NSW Government has today requested that children who have visited China in the past two weeks not attend school or childcare services until 14 days have lapsed from their date of departure from China.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said although the risk to children is very low, the NSW Government has taken this step as a precautionary measure.
“I’ve been advised that it’s not medically necessary, but the NSW Government has acted in line with community expectations to ensure the safest possible environment for our students,” Mr Hazzard said.
“The internationally recognised incubation period for the coronavirus is 14 days, so this is the logical timeframe to ask students to refrain from attending school. After this time, there is no risk.
“Advice about not attending school has already been provided to any close contacts of confirmed cases.”
The Commonwealth Department of Health has confirmed that all passengers disembarking from planes from China are being given comprehensive information about coronavirus in both English and Mandarin.
NSW Health has been contacting passengers who were on the same planes as confirmed cases to provide appropriate advice and has processes in place to identify any close contacts of cases confirmed in Australia.
Ms Mitchell said the Department of Education has issued guidance to schools and childcare services across NSW on protocols in the event of a child becoming sick.
“Although the risk remains very low for children, we believe it is the right thing to do to take this extra step and will continue to update the community with advice,” Ms Mitchell said.
There are currently four confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in NSW. All cases had travelled to Wuhan, China or had contact with a confirmed case in China.
Parents with concerns can contact their local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for advice or visit the dedicated NSW Health information page at:
Anyone who develops a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel to Hubei or contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, should immediately isolate themselves from other people, contact their GP or local emergency department or call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222.
KATE WASHINGTON MP
LABOR SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
NSW Labor has welcomed the successful passage of its Bill to ban single-use plastic bags in the Legislative Council this afternoon – in a shock defeat and humiliating rebuff for the Berejiklian Government.
Labor’s Bill passed 18 votes to 16 and must now come down to the Legislative Assembly in two weeks time.
Shadow Minister for Environment Kate Washington said she was overjoyed at the result.
“Under Gladys Berejiklian, NSW is the only state to not ban single use plastic bags,” Ms Washington said.
“The only people that are now standing in the way of a ban on single-use plastic bags in NSW are Gladys Berejiklian and John Barilaro.
“This is the third time this Bill has been introduced by Labor. We are hoping it will be a case of third time lucky.
“Labor will be campaigning around the clock with environmental groups across this state to make it happen.”
Ms Washington noted that a week ago Environment Minister Matt Kean told Question Time that he supported banning single use plastic bags.
“Some 50 million plastic bags end up in our oceans and waterways every year, so we have to ban the bag. But we also need to encourage people to reuse and recycle the bag.”
Environment Minister Matt Kean, Hansard 18 September 2019
“So far Matt Kean has been all talk – now we need to see action,” Ms Washington said.
“It’s clear Matt Kean knows this has to be done – his job now is to deliver the votes of Gladys Berejiklian and John Barilaro who have blocked progress at every turn.”
A legislative ban on single use plastic bags is supported by the National Retailers Association as well as NGOs such as the Boomerang Alliance.
Globally it is estimated that 1 million seabirds and over 100,000 mammals die every year as a result of plastic ingestion or entanglement.
About 180 million bags enter the Australian environment every year, including 50 million plastic bags entering our waterways and oceans.
A new project in Northern Australia will focus on how Australia can better protect and rapidly respond to the growing global risk of emergent infectious diseases which can spread to humans through animals and insects.
Increased surveillance of wildlife, improved disease monitoring, and more extensive field-based sampling are some of the initiatives being targeted by the new project, which is a collaboration between James Cook University (JCU) and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.
Northern Australia is at increased risk of infectious diseases found in South East Asia because of its close proximity to Asia, potentially providing a gateway to the rest of Australia.
RIGHT: A CSIRO scientist at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL).
Australia’s susceptibility is also increased because of global mobility, growing trade, increased urbanisation leading to human encroachment into wildlife habitats, expanding agricultural development including the rise of peri-urban farming, as well as environmental and land use changes.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews welcomed the collaboration between two of Australia’s leading biosecurity research organisations to protect Australia from the growing threat of zoonotic diseases.
“This collaboration will create an integrated northern and southern research capability that will be pivotal in helping to strengthen Australia’s preparedness and response to emerging infectious diseases,” Minister Andrews said.
Dean of the College, Professor Maxine Whittaker, said it is estimated that 75 per cent of infectious diseases in humans originate in animals, and the frequency of such transmissions has been steadily increasing over time.
“The global annual incidence of zoonotic infectious disease outbreaks has increased by more than 300 per cent since the 1980s,” Professor Whittaker said.
“This worrying trend is now seen as a global and national health security risk, with recent global outbreaks include Ebola virus disease, highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”
LEFT: The Aedes albopictus, or Asian Tiger mosquito
Bringing together world-class capabilities from the north and south of Australia, the program will connect JCU’s College of Public Health, Medicinal and Veterinary Sciences in Townsville with two CSIRO facilities: the Australian Tropical Sciences and Innovation Precinct (ATSIP) in Townsville and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong.
JCU and CSIRO will share knowledge and training opportunities to foster an agile team of experts able to respond rapidly to emerging infectious disease events in the future.
The CSIRO Board met in Townsville this week and welcomed the announcement. CSIRO Chair, David Thodey AO, said CSIRO’s wide-ranging expertise, broad geographical footprint, and commitment to collaboration can connect knowledge and research capability from Northern Australia to Victoria for the benefit of the whole country.
“We’re well-known in the Townsville community for our partnerships to protect and restore the Great Barrier Reef, but the challenge to help safeguard Australia from biosecurity threats is equally important,” he said.
“We can’t solve this biosecurity challenge alone, that‘s why collaboration with our long-standing partner, James Cook University, is crucial in strengthening and integrating Australia’s national biosecurity response capabilities.
“Our Townsville team aren’t just experts in biosecurity and environmental science, they’re Townsville’s front door to the whole of the national science agency, from energy to space, manufacturing to agriculture, and many others – whatever challenges Australians are facing, we’re here to help them solve.”
MEDIA CALL: 10am, Friday 30 August, JCU
Media are invited to film and photograph laboratories and hear from Minister Karen Andrews and representatives from James Cook University and CSIRO at 10am on Friday 30 August 2019.
James Cook University, Townsville
Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) building (Building 48)
1 James Cook Drive, Douglas, QLD
First floor lab.
Map here. Please wear closed-in shoes.
Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)
Australia has considerable emerging infectious diseases research capabilities at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) based in Geelong, one of the most sophisticated laboratories in the world for the safe handling, containment, diagnosis and research of animal and zoonotic diseases.
James Cook University
James Cook University has extensive experience in addressing the risk of infectious disease spread between animal and humans, and across the borders throughout tropical regions. Work includes vector control; disease monitoring, containment and prevention to protect animals and humans against potential zoonotic disease outbreaks; human behaviour; animal and human health services responsiveness to zoonotic infections; and modelling the influence of changes (environmental, people and animal movement, land use, antimicrobial treatment effectiveness and climatic) upon disease spread.