NSW school formals and graduations canned
Tough new COVID-safe measures introduced at schools across NSW will see school formals and graduation ceremonies called off and students prevented from certain activities like singing.
The strict new guidelines outlined by the education department come as part of a fresh bid to slow the spread of the virus after an outbreak at the Tangara Girls School last week.
The new rules, which will come into force from Wednesday, will see students forced to remain in their relevant class or year group to limit mixing.
School formals, dances, graduations and other social events will also not be allowed, although schools can hold a Year 12 assembly at the school without parents.
Authorities are, however, asking schools to consider delaying these gatherings.
Schools will also not be allowed to travel outside their local 'zone' and interschool carnivals limited to 100 people and in the local area.
Spectactors, including parents, are not permitted in the school grounds or at events held during school hours.
All group singing and the use of wind instruments in group settings will also be banned but dance and drama activities will be allowed to continue.
SYDNEY COURT CLOSES, SCHOOL SUSPENDS EXAMS
In Sydney, a selective school has suspended HSC trial exams and forced its students and staff into self-isolation after a positive COVID-19 test.
Sydney Girls High School is the latest school to be sent into lockdown after a student returned a positive test.
The school on Monday announced they would close for the day and advised all students and staff to self-isolate as contact tracing and deep cleaning is undertaken.
A trial HSC exam scheduled for the day has been cancelled and will be rescheduled and students notified, they said.
"The Department has been advised by NSW Health this morning that a student has tested positive for COVID-19.
"Students will continue to be supported through existing learning from home arrangements while the school is thoroughly cleaned."
The news comes as a court in Sydney's west is also shut down after a security guard tested positive for the disease.
Parramatta Local Court is urging anyone who attended the courthouse on August 11 and 12 between 8.30am and 12.30pm to get tested if they develop symptoms after the contractor returned a positive result.
A spokesperson for the Communities and Justice Department said all close contacts have been identified and are being contacted by NSW Health.
The courthouse has been cleaned as a precaution and will reopen today.
COVID-19 VACCINE EXPECTED IN AUSTRALIA IN MID-2021
Australian health officials are eyeing a mid-2021 rollout of what they increasingly believe will be a universally effective COVID-19 vaccine after promising data from major international trials.
Teams tasked by the federal government to negotiate deals with vaccine manufacturers have pored over detailed studies and data, and have been encouraged by the early results of several efficacy trials.
The Daily Telegraph understands once a vaccine was approved, Australian health company CSL would be able to scale up production within weeks depending on the type - with a year from now considered a middle-range estimate for a start date.
Australia's capacity to produce a potential vaccine locally using CSL has also made the country highly appealing for manufacturers looking to sell to the region.
The government would be able to manufacture enough doses for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific - a feat no single vaccine company could achieve while also covering other parts of the world.
Australia is working towards finalising two agreements - one believed to be with British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca - to produce doses of vaccines domestically.
The prospects are so positive Health Minister Greg Hunt has declared he is "genuinely optimistic" about the situation, revealing the latest health advice was that Australia was "far more likely than not" to have access to a vaccine.
Mr Hunt said the question was whether there would be "partial" or "full" vaccines.
"That hasn't been determined yet, a partial vaccine may need to be updated, it might not provide universal prevention but it does reduce the likelihood," he said.
There are 29 vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials around the world, including seven in "phase three" mass human trials, of which three have been identified by Australia as particularly promising.
Only five people in NSW tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, the lowest number since July 12 when the state recorded five cases connected to the initial Crossroads Hotel cluster.
The new cases included three people linked to the Tangara School for Girls cluster, a man in his 40s from Western Sydney still under investigation, and a close contact of the man.
A NSW man in his 80s died from COVID-19.
SYDNEY DRUMMERS HIT WRONG NOTE
Police were called to break up a musical gathering on a Sydney beach on Sunday night after passers-by attracted by the sound of the music swelled the party numbers past COVID-19 regulations.
The gathering on the headland at Maroubra Beach organised by Sydney Drummers quickly grew past the number of invited guests as locals and afternoon walkers stopped to listen to the beat of the drums.
Within a short period of time the party had grown to more than 50 people who were dancing on the headland.
Concerned local residents contacted police who were quickly on the scene to break up the party.
Party organiser Kurt Alchemy from Sydney Drummers said the group meets regularly to share their music.
"We meet once a month to unite as a tribe. We bring people together from all walks of life," he said.
Police who attended the scene asked the party goers to disperse and the area was quickly cleared.
Meanwhile, a 50-year-old man from Wilsons Creek on the North Coast has been issued a $1000 infringement notice as part of an ongoing police inquiry into a party on a remote property which breached COVID-19 regulations.
The unauthorised 'Doof' party, which was held on July 4 at Wilsons Creek, located approximately 10 kilometres south-west of Mullumbimby in the Tweed-Byron Police District, attracted an estimated crowd of 1000-1500 attendees.
MONEY LAUNDERING FALLS VICTIM TO COVID-19
Sydney criminals are getting caught with millions in cash as the pandemic shatters their efforts to launder money through casinos and poker machines, NSW Police and other law enforcement agencies said.
In the latest seizure, police allegedly found $1 million in cash at the East Hills home of a relative of a Middle Eastern crime family after they stopped his car on Friday afternoon in Riverwood.
Police also allegedly found cocaine and $120,000 in cash hidden in secret compartments in the car.
"It appears criminals are holding a lot more cash at the moment as they can't launder their money in traditional means because of the restrictions placed on them by COVID-19,'' Detective Superintendent Martin Fileman of the NSW Organised Crime Squad said.
"We are catching people with cash more frequently from amounts of tens of thousands of dollars up to the millions."
Border closures have also hit crime syndicates who often move money interstate to clean cash.
Det. Supt. Fileman said there are now huge amounts of cash sitting in homes and storage facilities waiting to be laundered.
"The amount in those units would run into the hundreds of millions,'' he said.
Other senior law enforcement officers told The Telegraph that a drop in foreign students has also hampered laundering syndicates.
"Foreign students are often used to remit money to overseas bank accounts and then transferred back in a variety of ways in an attempt to hide its origins," the officer said.
He said it also could explain the recent spike in gangsters kidnapping each other and holding them for ransom.
"They know that they are having problems moving cash so that makes them very attractive targets for extortion,'' he said.
GRANTS ON OFFER FOR MAKERS OF VITAL PPE
Grants of up to $500,000 will be provided to manufacturers which pivot to producing PPE in a bid to boost ongoing supply after an initial call to arms only saw a "handful" of companies ready to deliver the vital protective gear.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro will on Monday announce a $5m grants fund for manufacturers which repurpose their facilities or ramp up PPE production.
"Increasing incentives for manufacturers to produce PPE in NSW will "go towards keeping the critical supply of equipment to our frontline health workers going", Mr Barilaro said.
With the possibility that masks could become compulsory if mystery community transmission continues, Mr Barilaro said the government wants to help companies tap into the growing PPE market.
"We have an opportunity to build an industry off the back of it, rather than just rely on imports," he said.
Grants will be considered case-by-case for companies that can prove they can retool.
The grants come after an April "call to arms" that asked manufacturers to offer their services in producing PPE.
The call-out was designed to help the government "cover what was at the time a deficit in PPE", Mr Barilaro said.
Almost 2000 companies registered their interest to repurpose their facilities, but the program has not resulted in as many government contracts being awarded as businesses may have liked.
"There would have been a handful of companies that would have been tooled up (and) that the NSW, and possibly other governments, have procured from," the Deputy Premier said.
The state's PPE stockpile now boasts almost 90 million masks, after a $1bn procurement in May that mostly saw equipment purchased from overseas.
After initial work to secure enough protective gear, companies who registered through the online portal provided 30 per cent of additional government orders.