Australia's Victoria state brings forward school holidays amid coronavirus outbreak

A woman wearing a face mask walks on a street in Sydney, Australia, on March 19, 2020.
A woman wearing a face mask walks on a street in Sydney, Australia, on March 19, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia's Victoria state will bring forward school holidays to plan for "remote, flexible learning", Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference on Monday (March 23) as states plan for the coronavirus pandemic.

School holidays had been due to begin on Friday but Mr Andrews said they would now start on Tuesday while cautioning this was not an "ordinary" term break. He also reiterated national advice on social distancing and avoiding non-essential travel.

Australia's number of cases has surpassed 1,000 with Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, and New South Wales states recording the most infections.

"If people simply behave as normal, if they don't take this seriously, if they act selfishly, then people will die. I can't be any clearer than that," Mr Andrews said.

The state has also allocated 500 police members to enforce social distancing rules, he said.

The move comes after images on social media showed thousands of Sydney residents defied social distancing orders to flock to the famous Bondi beach over the weekend. The beach was subsequently closed.

"If we have a situation where this virus fundamentally gets away from us, we will have thousands of people who will only survive if they can breathe with the assistance of a machine and we will not have enough machines, nurses and doctors to provide that care," Mr Andrews warned.

"I'm not sure whether I could make it any clearer than that."

By contrast, New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, will keep schools open.


State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: "However, for practical reasons, in NSW we will be encouraging parents to keep their children at home."