Hospital staff across NSW will now have to wear masks if they are within the social distancing marker of 1.5 metres under new directives announced by the state government on Friday.
As the Victoria crisis rages, and NSW COVID-19 numbers creep up day after day, the NSW department of health has announced the new measures and an increase in testing.
There were a record 36,169 tests carried out in the 24-hour reporting period, compared with 24,640 in the previous 24 hours prior to the announcement.
There are 96 COVID-19 cases being treated by NSW Health, with three in intensive care. One person is being ventilated.
Although there were no new cases linked to the Crossroads Hotel, there has been 56 cases associated with the Crossroads Hotel cluster, 52 cases associated with the Thai Rock restaurant and eight cases associated with the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club.
NSW Health has said that as well as healthcare staff, all patients are also required to wear a mask, where possible. This advice applies to hospital and community health settings and comes into effect today.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the new measures do not apply to private hospitals, general practice clinics or aged care facilities and other non-public healthcare services.
The numbers of healthcare workers who have contracted the virus are sketchy, but the Brisbane Times reported that at the Royal Melbourne Hospital there are 45 positive staff members, with 270 furloughed to isolate at home.
The union representing nurses in NSW welcomed the news, although pointed out that they had been calling for increased safety for some time.
“While we welcome the decision to move to an amber alert, this clearly demonstrates our members have been working in much higher risk environments than the health service has been prepared to admit,” said NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, nurses and midwives have endured ongoing issues with access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and, at times, conflicting infection prevention advice.
“An expert risk assessment of the increase in community transmission of COVID-19 has prompted this ‘moderate’ risk warning and we appear to now have an abundant supply of masks for public health workers.”
The new hospital measures are one of a number of new restrictions the government has placed on NSW as they try and quell the latest outbreak. As of Monday morning there are 4598 active cases of COVID-19 nationwide while the death toll stands at 155 people.
Globally there has been 16,046,986 million cases of coronavirus across the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University, and over 644,000 deaths.
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