NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian held a media conference where she issued a fresh plea for people to self-isolate as the state's total number of coronavirus cases surpasses 800. Here's what she said:
Good morning, everybody. NSW is at a critical stage in relation to the virus. We need to make sure the spread stops. We need to make sure everybody who's in self-isolation stays in self-isolation.
We are ramping up our compliance. We're making sure that people are followed up. If they're supposed to be in self-isolation and they're not, there are harsh penalties and we'll enforce that.
We have to take this seriously.
And if NSW citizens follow the health advice, which is if you're self-isolating, stay in self-isolation, that includes contacts, direct contacts of people who have been diagnosed with the virus. If you are under those instructions, please, please follow those instructions. Do not go out into the community.
The quicker we stop the spread, the more handle, the more control we'll have over this virus.
And as the Chief Medical Officer will update the community this morning, we have had an increase — a substantial increase — in the number of cases again overnight. I don't want to see that number going up as rapidly.
We have to contain the spread, and this is exactly the critical time in NSW for that to occur.
I also want to thank the NSW Police Force for their contribution in relation to containing the spread, and making sure people are complying.
We know it's a tough time for many in the community, and my heart breaks for those businesses that had to shut their doors. My heart breaks for people who don't have a job anymore.
But please be assured that all governments are working hard to provide support to help all of us get through the next few months. It will be difficult.
I also want to thank our school communities. For many people, they had to change what they were doing, or think about what they were doing, and I want to thank our teachers and I want to thank our parents and school communities for the way in which they've responded to the Government's direction yesterday.
This is a difficult time for us, but I'm confident NSW will control as much as we can the spread of this virus, so long as everybody steps up and does what they need to do.
But we are at a critical stage, and I can't emphasise that enough.
Reporter: Premier, do you accept that it is unacceptable, the level of confusion that you've caused over schools?
Premier: Look, our direction in schools is very clear. I'll ask the Minister for Education to also discuss how school communities are adapting. Schools stay open. If you need to send your child to school, schools stay open.
However, we are recommending at this time that parents keep their children at home. And I said that yesterday, and I say that again today.
We appreciate, we appreciate what a challenging time this is for everybody, but we know for practical reasons a third of parents were keeping their kids at home last week. Yesterday, that number went up substantially, even before the messaging around what we were recommending.
And we also appreciate - and let me be frank, based on health advice, we don't know what the next five or six weeks will look like.
We are entering a period where our schools are about to go into school holidays, and it's appropriate for us to make sure we get the home learning up and ready.
This has been a good chance for us, an opportunity for us, to make sure that whether it's through web-based tools or whether it's through home learning, that we have the systems in place to support our children, to support our students, given what we might face into the future.
Good government means prudent planning, it means making sure you have a no-regrets policy. And I have a no-regrets policy. I'm incredibly pleased with the decisions we've taken to date. I don't regret any of them because I believe they're in the best interests of our citizens, and I continue to make decisions based on the best interests of our citizens, because we are in uncertain times.
I want to look back and think that every time we made a decision it was the right one for our people. And I don't care what criticism I get. Throw it at me, because I'm doing it because I believe it's in the best interests of the citizens of NSW.
We are a different state to the rest of Australia. We have the most people returned from overseas. We have the highest number of cases. We have the highest concentration. But to give you assurance, we also have the highest rates of testing, and that's what's giving me comfort.
Reporter: Is there something that's prompted this new warning from the two of you today about self-isolation?
Premier: Yes, because if you look around the world, if you see how the virus is getting out of control around the world, if you see the huge escalation in deaths, many countries did not control the spread at this stage of the virus. Right?
We can tell from our numbers — and they're going up quite significantly every day — but many countries did not take some of the actions this early on in the process in order to control the spread.
I don't want to be another example of a jurisdiction that didn't do what it needed to do at the right time. And I've got an outstanding chief medical officer, and her advice means everything to me. But so does my ability to make decisions for my citizens.
Again, I don't care what criticism I get, I will do what's right for our people.
Reporter: Can we just get clarification on the school issue? Is it a recommendation or a directive? I got a note from our school principal saying, "Do not send your children to school unless you, as in parents, are in emergency services and essential service"?
Premier: We've said schools are open. Schools are open and a safe place.
We know that for some families, they have no option to keep their children at home during this time. I appreciate that, but schools are a safe place.
And they're even safer when there's less children there, for the teachers, right?
So, we know that the decision we've taken is the best one for NSW, for practical reasons. We knew already the level of concern in the community was there, because at least a third of parents...
Reporter: Premier, did you hear his question? He said his principal said not to turn up at school unless they're [in] emergency...
Premier: I will ask the Minister for Education to talk about [that]... certainly the communication I've seen has been very clear. And I know both the secretary and the minister have met with all our stakeholder communities yesterday.
Reporter: Do you accept how ridiculously conflicting it is for a parent to get a note that says, "You can only send your child to school if you're an emergency services essential worker", when you're standing up here, saying, "That's not the case"?
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell: The message is clear. School is open for those who need to attend.
We have said to our school principals, you need to communicate to your school families, parent communities and carers about what they need to do.
If they are able to keep their child at home, that was the clear recommendation from the Premier yesterday. We are asking parents, where practical, to keep your children at home with you.
No child will be turned away from a school community. We made that clear yesterday and I would expect that if parents do have concerns, if they have questions with any material that might be coming from their principal or school community, they should speak to their principal about that particular situation.