Threat to close beaches again as COVID death toll rises
Authorities are threatening to close Sydney's beaches again this weekend if people don't respect social distancing rules during forecast warmer weather.
The warning comes as NSW recorded seven new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the state total to 2983.
Meanwhile, the NSW government has announced an additional $73 million towards mental health services as people try to cope with social isolation at home.
The state's death toll has increased to 34 after one more death related to COVID-19 was confirmed overnight.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said a 78-year-old woman from Newmarch House in Cadden died, bringing the centre's fatalities to four.
TESTING RAMPED UP TO 8000 A DAY
Anyone who feels unwell or is concerned they might have COVID-19 can now come forward for testing after the government broadened the testing criteria.
The Daily Telegraph revealed today NSW residents can now step forward for COVID-19 testing as the government works to boost testing rates to 8000 a day.
Previously, just those people who have been in contact with an infected person, were part of a known cluster or who work with vulnerable people could be swabbed for the virus.
It comes as just seven people returned positive results for COVID-19 despite more than 7000 people presenting for testing.
"I'm very pleased to announce that the NSW Government is saying to anybody across state if you are worried you have the virus or have been in contact and are concerned you have the disease please come forward," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Ms Berejiklian called on all residents to come forward for testing - even on the weekends - to ensure daily testing rates remain high.
It's hoped the increased testing rates will help the state prepare for a potential lifting of lockdown restrictions in coming weeks, she said.
"As we consider lifting restrictions we have to do more tests," she said.
BEACH-GOERS WARNED TO RESPECT RULES
Randwick Council has issued a stern warning to beachgoers that Coogee, Maroubra and Clovelly will close this weekend if social distancing is not followed.
Beaches will be monitored by lifeguards, rangers and staff who will "count heads" in the water and on the sand made easier with new fencing allowing for entry and exit points.
"It certainly wasn't in their job description, to count heads on a beach during a global pandemic, but they've stepped up and shown their commitment to our residents," said Randwick City Mayor Danny Said.
The close monitoring will run from today to Sunday night.
Mr Said said people should not be "planning a day at the beach", with the area only open for exercise.
"People should not be hopping in their cars to travel to our beaches," he said.
"The stay at home public health orders remain in place, which require people to not leave their homes unless it is for essential reasons.
"If residents head to the beach, it should be to go for a quick swim, surf or soft sand run, then home again."
Mr Said said asked people to be kind to staff this weekend.
"They don't always get the thanks they deserve for the patience and dedication they show, so I hope people take a moment to show their appreciation this weekend," he said.
$73 MILLION FOR MENTAL HEALTH
The government has boosted access to mental health services across NSW, announcing the expansion of virtual mental health support teams and additional resources on the state's mental health hotline.
Mental Health Minister Bronwyn Taylor said the government has placed 180 new psychologists into the workforce and boosted frontline support for the 1800 011 511 mental health line to enable it to field an additional 60,000 calls.
"We want this mental health line to be all things to everyone that needs it. If we can allow access to people with a mental health issue we can allow the right pathway to right service at the right time they're going to get better outcomes," she said.
The government has also announced it will be expanding virtual mental health support service across every Local Health District in NSW to enable people in the state's regions to access help when they need it most.
"It's bringing mental health care to people regardless of your circumstances or where you live."
"It's a huge step forward in mentals health provision, particularly in this time of COVID-19."
New parents will also be able to access free support to help with their newborn's sleeping routine.
Ms Taylor said Tresillian's Sleep Well Baby program will be free for all NSW parents from today.
"What that means is every single day from their homes 24 hours a day parents will be able to access the services they need," she said.
The program offers support for parents of newborn up to children aged 3 to help guide them through getting their baby to sleep. It includes the latest clinical guidance around sleep routines and useful sleep monitoring tools.
Originally published as Threat to close beaches again as COVID death toll rises