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‘No words’ for the grief, Tasmanian education department says of Devonport accident

By Cassandra Morgan

The Tasmanian Department of Education says it is focused on supporting the students, staff and broader school community affected by the Devonport jumping castle accident, after four primary school students died and a further five children remain in hospital.

In a statement on Thursday, the department said it was coordinating a range of services to offer critical support to the Hillcrest Primary School community, with its approach led by senior psychologists trained in incident response.

Four children have died in a jumping castle accident at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport.

Four children have died in a jumping castle accident at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport.Credit:Monte Bovill/ABC News

“What has occurred today is a tragedy. There are no words that will take away the grief that those impacted families are feeling today,” the department said.

“We urge members of the broader community to reach out for support in this difficult time.”

There are a range of 24-hour support services available for those who may have been affected by the incident.

Lifeline can be contacted on 13 11 44; Kids Helpline is on 1800 551 800; Mental Health Helpline is on 1800 332 388; and Beyond Blue is on 1300 224 636.

A police and WorkSafe investigation is underway into the tragedy, which occurred about 10am on Thursday when a strong gust of wind lifted the jumping castle about 10 metres into the air. It is unclear how many children were playing on the inflatable castle at the time.

Alert issued for Sydney Taylor Swift club party as COVID cluster emerges

By Mary Ward

At least 97 people who attended a Taylor Swift-themed party in Sydney last Friday have tested positive to COVID-19, prompting health authorities to direct anyone who was at the event to get tested and self-isolate for seven days.

Infections acquired at the venue are likely to be the Omicron variant.

Anyone who attended the On Repeat: Taylor Swift Red Party at the Metro on George Street on Friday from 9pm onwards is considered a close contact of a case, following yet another super-spreading event in a nightlife venue.

In a statement, NSW Health said it was urgently contacting the 600 people who attended the event and checked in using the venue’s QR code.

“NSW Health is appealing for anyone who attended but did not check in using the QR code to urgently get tested and isolate, and for the community to ensure other potential attendees are aware of this advice,” it added.

More than 200 cases have been linked to a “prom night” party at Newcastle’s Argyle House nightclub earlier that week.

Omicron coronavirus variant arrives in NZ

By Lia Timson

New Zealand has recorded its first COVID case linked to the Omicron coronavirus variant in an international passenger in quarantine.

The passenger, who is double-vaccinated with Pfizer, arrived from Germany via Dubai on December 10.

NZ’s Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said the new variant was concerning, but the country was well placed to manage Omicron cases.

“With a strong border, we are prepared to detect Omicron cases in international arrivals and manage them appropriately,” he said, adding that every COVID case detected in quarantine was subjected to “whole genome sequencing”.

There were 91 community cases of COVID-19 reported in New Zealand on Thursday, the Ministry of Health said. Fifty-eight people are currently hospitalised with the disease.


Health authorities cancel Newcastle music festival

By Mary Ward

Thousands of revellers will no longer descend on Newcastle this weekend for the Lunar Electric Music Festival, after it was cancelled under a Public Health Order.

“NSW Health considered that the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the Newcastle area, where the majority of a record number of cases are the Omicron variant of concern, presents too great a risk for the festival to take place this weekend,” the ministry said in a statement.

“NSW Health has advised the organisers of the festival this afternoon of the cancellation.”

There were 267 new coronavirus cases in Newcastle today and an additional 213 in the Lake Macquarie area, as NSW recorded a record 1742 cases.

Health authorities believe the upswing in cases is likely being driven by transmission of the new Omicron variant of concern.

In a post on Instagram earlier this week, organisers of the festival said they planned on going ahead, despite rising coronavirus cases linked to several nightlife spots in the city.

The organisers said they would be handing out masks – although people would not be required to wear them – and asked attendees who were pinged as contacts of a COVID-19 case to stay home and isolate, in line with directions from authorities.

They also said people with COVID-19 symptoms would be made to take a rapid antigen test on-site, although NSW Health officials have repeatedly advised members of the public to instead present for a PCR test if they have any respiratory symptoms.

Answers on jumping castle accident will take some time: Tasmanian police chief

By Cassandra Morgan

Tasmania’s Chief Police Commissioner Darren Hine says it will be some time before authorities know exactly what happened in the Devonport jumping castle tragedy, which has resulted in the deaths of four children in years five and six at Hillcrest Primary School.

Speaking during a press conference just moments ago, Mr Hine said there were a number of witnesses to the incident that police needed to interview.

He was asked by a journalist whether authorities knew if the jumping castle was anchored down. He said that this question would form part of the police investigation with WorkSafe, the results of which would be handed to the coroner.

“Investigating it will take quite some time,” Mr Hine said. “Sadly there are a number of people and witnesses there that need to be interviewed, so it will take quite some time and will be guided by the coroner and, as I said, the coroner has already been there.”

‘Our hearts are breaking’: Death toll from Tasmanian primary school accident rises to four

By Cassandra Morgan

The death toll from a jumping castle accident at a primary school in the Tasmanian city of Devonport on Thursday morning has risen to four, Tasmania Police has confirmed.

Police Commissioner Darren Hine said the children who died in the incident were two boys and two girls, in years five and six at Hillcrest Primary School.

Four children have died after a jumping castle was blown into the air at a primary school in Tasmania’s north west.

Four children have died after a jumping castle was blown into the air at a primary school in Tasmania’s north west.Credit:Nine News

Another four children were in a critical condition and one was in a serious condition in hospital.

Mr Hine said police and emergency services were called to the scene at about 10am this morning after a wind gust had reportedly caused the jumping castle and inflatable balls to lift into the air.

“On a day when these children were meant to be celebrating their last day of primary school, instead we are all mourning their loss,” he said.

“Our hearts are breaking for the families and the loved ones, schoolmates, teachers of these young people who were taken too soon.

“Our thoughts are also with those emergency services personnel who attended to try and save these people’s lives.

“We’re going to be doing everything we possibly can to support the school community and the community at large. There will be counselling available to the wider community and also to the school community.”

Mr Hine said a police and WorkSafe investigation was under way.

“That’ll take some time to complete and once that’s completed, it’ll be handed to the coroner for an inquest,” he said.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said the events were “simply inconceivable” and “devastating and heartbreaking”.

“I know that this is a strong and caring community that will stand together and support one another,” he said.

“I speak for all Tasmanians in extending my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of everyone affected by today’s tragedy. For the five children who remain in hospital, our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their friends during this very difficult time.”


Politicians should stick ‘as closely as we can to the health advice’: shadow treasurer

By Michaela Whitbourn

As reported earlier in this blog, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has echoed the language of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and said people should take responsibility for their own health as governments wind back COVID-19 restrictions.

“The time has come for people to take responsibility,” Mr Morrison said.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers was asked about those comments by the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas just now.

“It needs to be constantly under review,” Mr Chalmers said. “We need to hew as closely as we can to the health advice.

“Australians will do the right thing in the main if they’re given the right guidance. State premiers listen carefully to the health and advice and we should follow it as closely as we can too.”

Watch: Tasmanian Premier speaks after fatal accident at Devonport school

Queensland airports, Brisbane train line join long list of exposure sites

By Toby Crockford

A Brisbane train line and a swag of shops across Brisbane, Ipswich and the Gold Coast have been added to Queensland Health’s ever-growing list of COVID-19 exposure sites.

Brisbane, Gold Coast, Coolangatta, Townsville and Cairns airports are also areas of concern after numerous infected interstate travellers poured through the terminals this week.

Multiple Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia flights are now on Queensland Health’s COVID-19 exposure site list.

Multiple Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia flights are now on Queensland Health’s COVID-19 exposure site list. Credit:James Alcock

Three new flights, all of which flew into or out of Brisbane on Monday – the day Queensland reopened its borders to COVID-ravaged states – have been declared exposure sites.

The flights of concern are Virgin Flight VA1105 from Newcastle to Brisbane, Qantas Flight QF2426 from Newcastle to Brisbane and Jetstar Flight JQ486 from Newcastle to Brisbane.

Read the full story here.


NSW extends vaccine mandate to private health workers

By Mary Ward

GPs, pharmacists and other privately employed health professionals will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of January in order to continue to work in NSW.

While NSW Health staff have needed to have had two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine since November 30, there is currently no requirement for private healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

GPs, pharmacists and other privately employed health professionals will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of January in order to continue to work in NSW.

GPs, pharmacists and other privately employed health professionals will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of January in order to continue to work in NSW.Credit:James Brickwood

The mandate will affect doctors, nurses and pharmacists who work in private or community settings, as well as allied health workers including speech pathologists and dietitians.

It will come into force on January 31, 2022.

Similar rules are already in place in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

“Obligations for employers to take reasonable steps to ensure workers comply with these vaccination requirements, and for workers to provide evidence of vaccination will also apply,” the health ministry said in a statement.

“Workers will not be able to work in these settings, unless they are vaccinated or have a medical contraindication certified by a medical practitioner.

“NSW Health will be consulting with key medical and health stakeholders prior to commencement of the changes.”

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