April  5 - 11, 2020: Issue 445


Public Health Doctor Warns Of Need For Social Distancing As COVID-19 Cases Rise On The Beaches

The View south from Barrenjoey Headland - Photo by John Illingsworth

By Miranda Korzy

A public health expert is warning Pittwater residents about the importance of social distancing because of the Northern Beaches relatively high number of COVID-19 cases. 

NSW statistics released on Saturday show that the area north from Narrabeen Lagoon to Palm Beach including the offshore communities – roughly coinciding with the former Pittwater Council area – has recorded 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (see table at end of story).  

However, the whole of the Northern Beaches accounts for 138 confirmed cases of COVID-19 contributing to a total of 2,493 statewide - up from 85 the previous week.  

This was the highest number for any council area in the state - except for Waverley at 159. 

Public health specialist Dr Tony Sara told Pittwater Online News that travellers from overseas – including backpackers and others who had failed to self-isolate - had created the hot spots of infection.

Unlike in some countries, significant numbers of young people in Australia were also getting COVID-19, he said. (1,036 NSW residents aged under 40 have contracted the virus.) 

“If the community follows the social distancing rules we will save thousands of lives,” he said. 

“I think the Northern Beaches are probably going to be OK but it depends completely on social distancing,” said Dr Sara, who is the president of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation.

“It’s a real worry that the Northern Beaches has one of the higher rates of community transition in NSW.  

“… If we continue getting the community-related transmission we’re not going to do well.” 

A Northern Beaches Hospital spokeswoman told Pittwater Online News on Saturday that the hospital had treated “roughly 10” COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began. 

One patient remained in the ICU in a stable condition and the rest had been discharged, she said. No further information was available about patients. 

Last Saturday, NBH was treating three COVID-19 patients and a further three had been discharged, a spokeswoman then said. 

The hospital has 50 ventilators and 20 ICU beds. Other hospital beds can be ventilated as demand increases, the spokeswoman said. 

Meanwhile, three staff members at the Mona Vale pizza store, I Love Pizza, had tested positive to COVID-19, NSW Health revealed on Wednesday. 

No further cases had been linked yesterday (Saturday) to the cluster at the pizza shop, however the health department earlier warned customers to be cautious. 

“While all close contacts have been confirmed and contacted and the risk is low, all customers who ate pizza from the store between March 20 and March 28 should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19,” NSW Health said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Further south at Brookvale, a nurse who worked in two residential aged care facilities (Alexander Aged Care Brookvale and Scalabrini Allambie Heights) had tested positive, NSW Health said today. 

Contact tracing was underway and residents were being isolated within the facilities, the department said in a statement.

Asked if the private Northern Beaches Hospital’s 20 ICU beds would be enough to cope with COVID-19 in its catchment, Dr Sara said: “It entirely depends on how community transmission goes.

“If what’s happening in Spain, Italy and the US comes to the Northern Beaches then you would need triple or four times that number.”

Federal MP for Mackellar Jason Falinski this week said he wanted to highlight the preparedness of Northern Beaches Hospital to cope with COVID-19, after the government finalised an agreement with the private hospital sector. 

Hundreds of private hospital nurses were laid off the previous week and hospitals threatened to close unless the government replaced income lost due to the cancellation of elective surgery.

Under the deal, private hospital facilities would be required to make infrastructure, essential equipment (including ventilators), supplies (including PPE), workforce and additional resources fully available to the NSW hospital system or the Australian Government, Mr Falinski said.

“The Australian Government has partnered with the private hospital sector, including the Northern Beaches Hospital, to ensure the full resources of our world class health system, are ready and focused on treating patients as required, through the coronavirus pandemic,” Mr Falinski said in a statement.



Pittwater Businesses Call For Government Clarity On COVID-19 Support

By Miranda Korzy 

Pittwater businesses have been almost universally hard hit during the COVID-19 crisis but adding to their distress is a lack of clarity about their entitlements to government support.

Mona Vale Chamber of Commerce president Chris Kavanagh said yesterday that lots of shops in Mona Vale had closed and about 80 per cent had gone online as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Cafes and restaurants were doing takeaways where they could and also going online, Mr Kavanagh said. 

However, despite the dire trading conditions, governments’ messages about support for businesses were confusing, adding to owners' apprehension and anxieties.

“They need to be far more concise in their communications about what measures businesses are entitled to claim and business owners should be able to know how to claim,” Mr Kavanagh told Pittwater Online News.  

Backing his call for more government information was BMG Wealth CEO Aaron Hendrikson, whose accounting and finance firm is based in Mona Vale. 

Mr Hendrikson, whose clients range from Mum and Dad businesses to publicly-listed companies, said not many businesses were ducking the impact of the virus.

The only ones doing well from the pandemic were the major supermarket chains and health-related businesses like chemist shops, he said.

The lack of information about government support available to them was exacerbating the situation.     

“It’s fine the government coming up with all these initiatives but if employers are uncertain they’ll (employers) put people off,” he said.

The federal government last Monday announced the establishment of a “Job Keeper” payment that will be administered by the Australian Taxation Office. 

Under the scheme, businesses impacted by the coronavirus will be eligible for a government subsidy to enable them to keep paying their staff. 

Employers will be able to claim $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible worker, for up to six months from March 30.  

Mr Hendrikson said the impacts of the crisis would be less obvious in some industries than for local cafes and the flow-on effects for some enterprises would take more time to become apparent. 

Smash repairers were getting less work and putting off staff because “people don’t want to be without their cars in a crisis”, he said.  

However, their suppliers and the multinational insurers who referred customers to them were also effected as a result. 

In the construction industry – the second largest on the Northern Beaches after Professional, Scientific and technical Services – the effects would take longer to appear. 

“Tradies might have work booked from now till December - if their revenues don’t drop in the next few months,” he said. 



Bush Fire Season Comes To A Close In NSW

Photo: November 8, 2019 - The Ingleside NSWRFS Tanker is up in the Port Macquarie area, they left at 5am to get there.  An additional 5 tankers were also responded to Taree just after lunch. Ingleside had 4 RFS volunteers involved in this bushfire effort. Then a 2nd Strike Team left just after lunch from the Northern Beaches RFS District (Friday November 8th) and ended up at the Rainbow Flat bushfire, just South of Taree - another terrible fire. By December NSW RFS Volunteer Strike Teams from our area were heading to the South Coast to meet the infernos there. Photo courtesy Ingleside NSW RFB.
March 31st marks the close of the official Bush Fire Season - a season that started in July 2019, with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service bringing forward the official start of that season, usually commencing on October 1st and running until the end of March. On August 1st 2019 NSW RFS Acting Commissioner Rob Rogers said 12 LGA's would commence the Bush Fire Danger Period (BFDP) due to prevailing dry conditions. They were Armidale Regional, Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Kempsey, Mid Coast, Nambucca, Port Macquarie Hastings, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha.

Acting Commissioner Rogers said then a number of factors, including local fuel conditions, are considered before declaring a variation to the statutory BFDP that commences on 1 October 2019.

“Conditions across the state are drier and warmer than average, with more than 98 percent of NSW drought affected,” Acting Commissioner Rogers said.

By August 14th nine homes had been destroyed in Northern New South Wales, at Kemsey and in the Richmond Valley and the next day an additional 9 local council areas commenced their Bush Fire Danger Period early; Ballina, Bellingen, Byron, Coffs Harbour, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed.

''Over the past week, we’ve seen a number of large and fast moving fires in some of these areas, and these have destroyed homes and other buildings,” Acting Commissioner Rogers said.

By August 31st another 53 areas had been added to the early start of their BFDP.

Over the past two months, we’ve seen more than 2700 bush and grass fires which have unfortunately destroyed homes, impacted property and closed roads,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons  was urging homeowners to prepare for the upcoming fire season, noting warmer than average temperatures and below average rainfall were forecast for the coming months.

“Recent research has indicated that 67 per cent of people had some sort of plan of what to do in the event a fire threatens.

“While it is encouraging that two thirds of people have discussed what they’ll do, our research also shows that many people’s plans are simple, and often not well thought through.

“We want people to ask themselves how fireproof is your plan? Have the conversation with your family about what you will do during a fire – including where you’ll go, what you’ll take and what you’ll do with animals.” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

On September 6th a RFS firefighter was critically injured fighting a fire at Tenterfield. The man was one of two firefighters in a fire truck fighting the Mount Mackenzie Road fire, south of the Tenterfield township.

The firefighter suffered serious burns to his hands, arm, legs, back, face and airways. The fire truck was destroyed by fire. He was transported to Tenterfield Hospital for initial treatment and was stabilised before being airlifted to Royal Brisbane Hospital. He is in a critical but stable condition.

The second firefighter was not injured.

An initial assessment of the Mount McKenzie Road fire, Tenterfield (60% of area assessed by September 7th), showed 1 home destroyed, 4 damaged, 3 facilities destroyed (two car yards and a pistol club), 12 outbuildings destroyed, 8 damaged, 65 homes in the immediate area of the fire were saved, while in View Street, Lidsdale (100% of area assessed); 1 home damaged,  and 3 outbuildings destroyed

Building Impact Assessment Teams were unable to inspect properties at the Long Gully Road fire near Drake, due to dangerous conditions. Across the firegrounds impacted on Septmber 6th 2019, at least 160 homes in the immediate area of the fires were saved, along with 15 facilities and 81 outbuildings.

By September 17th 26 homes had been destroyed and 612 in the areas affected saved.

It took until March 2nd, 2020 for the NSW RFS to state; ''there are currently no active bush or grass fires in NSW. That’s more than 240 days of fire activity for the state.''

The official end to the most devastating bush fire season in the state’s history could not come soon enough for all those who have been fighting fires since July 2019 - many of them from our local RFS Brigades.

NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said this season had been unprecedented in terms of conditions experienced, the loss of lives and property, and the threat to communities across large parts of NSW.

NSW RFS crews and other agencies have responded to more than 11,400 bush and grass fires that have burnt more than 5.5 million hectares, the equivalent of 6.2% of the state,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

Fires this season have destroyed 2,448 homes; however, the great work of firefighters saw 14,481 homes saved.”



Autumn In Pittwater 2020

Sunrise on Wednesday April 1st, 2020 from the southern end of Turimetta Beach.  Photo by Joe Mills

Joe says: ''With Coronavirus in play I have to keep social distancing, so for a few mornings I will have to give up Narrabeen Rock Pool.  But blessed with this display.  Only 2 other people on the beach.''

One of the Kookaburra Fledgling triplets this week - just before take off. A J Guesdon photo.
Cassia (Senna pendula). Also known as Senna and Arsenic Bush. Originating in South American, Cassia is a perennial sprawling multi-stemmed shrub or tree up to 5m tall. 

This weed replaces native vegetation and establishes in a wide range of native plant communities, including coastal heath and scrubland, hind dunes and riparian corridors. The large seed pods are eaten by birds and other animals. You may be seeing this bright burst of yellow everywhere as it is currently flowering - please pull out and get rid of if you have in your garden.

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