Sydney news: COVID hotspots hit vaccine milestones; call for air filters in school classrooms

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Vaccine milestones for hotspots

The 12 local government areas (LGAs) in Greater Sydney deemed COVID-19 hotspots are reaching vaccination milestones quicker than the rest of New South Wales.

Some 2 million people live in these areas, accounting for a quarter of the state’s population.

According to latest data from the federal government, 85 per cent of those living in a hotspot have had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — 3 per cent more than the state’s average, of 82 per cent. 

As at September 19, more than 90 per cent of residents in the Blacktown and Campbelltown LGAs had received their first dose.

Bayside was the only LGA out of the 12 that trailed the state’s average, but only by a fraction.

Eased restrictions in the areas of concern took effect on Monday, meaning there is no longer a cap on outdoor exercise and fully vaccinated people can gather outside in groups of five.

However, still in place are travel permits and rules for authorised workers.

Yesterday, a 14-year-old in south-west Sydney was one of the first people in Australia to receive a Moderna vaccine, after more than 1 million doses arrived in Sydney over the weekend.

Across New South Wales, 14 pharmacies have begun administering doses, with priority given to 12-to-15-year-olds. 

Return-to-school plan should include CO2 filters

An occupational hygienist has recommended classrooms be fitted with carbon dioxide filters to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

From October 25, children across the state will gradually return to school, starting with kindergarten and year 1s. 

Kate Cole, from expert group OzSAGE, said getting fresh air into classrooms should be the first priority, as poor ventilation contributed to the spread of the virus. 

“Then we can use really simple measures like carbon dioxide monitors to see how much carbon dioxide is building up in those spaces,” Ms Cole said. 

“That’s a really fantastic surrogate for us to understand if a place is a high risk or low risk.

“We would advise that, if carbon dioxide concentrations are not below 800 parts per million and we have no other way of getting more fresh air into that space, then … we recommend using portable HEPA air purifiers.”

A spokesperson for the education department said their return-to-school plan was based on advice from NSW Health, which stated CO2 monitors or HEPA filters were not required.

“The advice is to maximise natural ventilation and, in preparation of the return to face-to-face learning, the department is reviewing windows to ensure they are openable,” the spokesperson said.

“The review will also ensure that ceiling or wall-mounted fans are operational and other mechanical ventilation systems, such as air conditioning units, are cleaned or filters replaced.”

Arson inquiry appeal

Police are appealing for information about a suspected arson in which a teenage boy died at Macquarie Fields earlier this year.

Emergency services were called to a house a Macquarie fields in the early hours of the morning on June 30, after smoke was seen coming from a two-storey brick home.

The occupants were able to escape the home but a teenage boy was unaccounted for.

His body was later found in an upstairs bedroom.

The boy was formally identified as 14-year-old Tahma Teara-Jones.

Police were told Tahma had been staying with a friend who resided at the home on the night of the fire.

“These are incredibly tragic circumstances that cost a 14-year-old boy his life, and Tahma’s family deserve answers,” said Arson Unit Coordinator, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Puffett, 

Police are appealing with anyone with information about the fire to come forward.

Race day crowds return 

While the Australian Turf Club has been pushing to have 15,000 people at the Everest horse race at Randwick racecourse next month, the NSW government says it will only allow 5,000 people to attend the event.

The government expects to reach the 70 per cent double-dose vaccination rate before the event on October 16.

Its permission to go ahead with the event was signed off yesterday by the state’s Crisis Cabinet.

Cold snap hits

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says temperatures will dip today before easing on Wednesday as a cold front sweeps across New South Wales.

Greater Sydney and the Hunter region could see widespread showers, thunderstorms and winds up to 50 kilometres per hour.

Snow is expected to fall mostly along the state’s tablelands. A hazardous surf warning has been issued for the Macquarie, Hunter and Sydney coasts.

“People need to be aware it’s a cold snap, even though we’ve had quite warm conditions, particularly for this time of year,” BOM forecaster David Wilke said.

“We are getting throttled back into temperatures that are a bit more like winter.”

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