Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, has urged people to not take chances with their health or the health of others as the number of coronavirus cases rise.
The number of confirmed cased of coronavirus in NSW has jumped dramatically to reach 171.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says there have been 37 new cases in the 24 hours to 11am on Monday which he described as a “dramatic increase.”
There are 1,282 cases under investigation at the moment with 25,500 people tested to date.
“It is starting to look as if there will be a fairly substantial … exponential increase in numbers over the next few weeks,” Hazzard told reporters in Sydney.
Some private schools in NSW will start teaching students online to limit the spread of coronavirus while harsh penalties will be imposed on people and businesses who fail to comply with a ban on mass gatherings.
Hazzard has issued an order under the Public Health Act 2010 to force the immediate cancellation of public events with more than 500 people.
Individuals who fail to comply could face up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $11,000, or both, he said on Monday.
Additional penalties could be imposed for each day the offending continues.
Under the changes, which came into effect on Sunday, corporations face even harsher fines.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged people to be careful and not take chances with their own health and the health of others.
“Don’t just think of yourself or your own family, but you could be unintentionally infecting and causing the death of so many other people,” she said in southern NSW on Monday.
“I want everyone to brace themselves. It’s not a time to be complacent or reckless or think that it’s not going to affect you.”
Schools from Monday are adopting social distancing measures, including cancelling assemblies, excursions and travel, as well as some events and conferences in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Association of Independent Schools of NSW said some of its schools will start teaching students remotely.
There are about 500 private schools across the state, with some to teach students online from this week while others will set tasks and assignments via email, chief executive Dr. Geoff Newcombe said in a statement on Monday.
St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in Panania in Sydney’s southwest closed on Monday after a person who attended an event hosted by the school tested positive the disease.
Sydney Catholic Schools executive director Tony Farley said the professional development event was held on March 12 and the infected person was not a teacher at the Panania primary school or any other Sydney Catholic school.
The school will undergo a thorough “hygiene sweep” on Monday and will reopen on Tuesday.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay said schools would be closed at some point for a period of time due to the virus.
She has written to the premier advising her it would be inappropriate for state parliament to sit next week.
Meanwhile, the University of NSW said a student from its Australian Graduate School of Management on Monday had tested positive.
The student has not been on campus or been in contact with any students or staff, a UNSW spokeswoman told AAP in a statement.
There are more than 300 coronavirus cases across the country.
Australia’s COVID-19 death toll rose to five on Sunday after a 90-year-old female resident of Sydney’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge nursing home died after becoming infected.
Several large events across the state including the Sydney Royal Easter Show have been cancelled.
RSL NSW is expected to make a decision on Monday regarding upcoming Anzac Day marches.
By Dominica Sanda and Julian Drape