NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

NSW virus toll hits 33, teachers slam plan

An emergency response team and federal support have been sent to a Sydney nursing home where three residents have died amid 42 cases of coronavirus.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant on Wednesday said specialist doctors and nurses had been deployed to the 95-resident Newmarch House in Caddens.

With 55 staff forced into isolation, the federal government has activated a "surge workforce", including the deployment of an emergency response team, to support the centre's operator Anglicare.

Federal Aged Care and Senior Australians Minister Richard Colbeck said Anglicare would call a resident and family meeting on Thursday.

Representatives from the Department of Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, and the Older Persons Advocacy Network will also attend.

National Deputy Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said unlimited workforce support had been offered to assist with the difficult situation of having a large number of residents with COVID-19 and a number of staff absent due to close contact with a coronavirus case.

"We're really scratching around to have adequate staff there. Today we're happy we've got a good number of RNs (registered nurses), a little short on carers. We have been reaching out to agencies locally," Anglicare chief executive Grant Millard told ABC television.

"We're in the eye of the storm for the next two or three days ... after that, 55 of our care workers in time will be brought back online."

In a statement on Wednesday night, Mr Millard said the events at Newmarch House has been "a terrible situation for us".

"We are grateful the Commonwealth government has been working closely with us to find the best staff across the sector to provide us with the high levels of care all our residents have come to expect under normal circumstances," he said.

The federal government has provided reassurance that any personal protective equipment needed at the facility will be supplied, Mr Millard said.

"We are working hard to contain this virus and provide our residents with the care they have been used to and deserve."

Strict isolation protocols are in place for Newmarch House residents.

A staff member who worked for six consecutive days with mild symptoms, primarily a sore throat, introduced the virus to the facility.

Mr Millard said the worker was "extremely distraught" but was physically recovering.

A 92-year-old woman was the latest death at Newmarch House on Tuesday, while the deaths of a 75-year-old man at St George Hospital and an 80-year-old woman at Gosford Hospital brought the state's total to 33.

An additional five coronavirus cases were confirmed in NSW on Wednesday, taking the tally to 2974, more than 1350 of whom have recovered.

The Independent Education Union, meanwhile, has raised concerns about a decision to resume classroom teaching in term two.

School students across NSW are supposed to attend class for face-to-face learning one day a week from May 11, building up to a full-time return to the classroom in term three.

"A rushed return to face-to-face teaching risks revisiting the untenable and stressful situation where teachers will again be forced to deliver two modes of instruction, both online and face-to-face," the union's NSW/ACT branch secretary, Mark Northam, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The union is calling for a staged reopening of schools beginning around the middle of term two.

This would "provide teachers and support staff with the health and safety assurances to which they are entitled, and students with the continuing educational outcomes they deserve", Mr Northam said.

The union says it has been largely left out of the decision-making process and is calling for regular consultation meetings with Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, as well as for modelling used to make decisions to be made available.



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