Coronavirus: how Sydney city councils are managing
As the coronavirus spreads, washing hands and avoiding social gatherings helps contain the contagion. Photo: Alec Smart
by ALEC SMART
CoronaVirus cases are still on the rise across Australia as venues close, public events are cancelled, sporting matches played without audiences, and borders close to all foreign visitors for the foreseeable future. People are slowly adapting: those that are able begin working from home, and consumers stock up – often hoarding – foodstuffs and essentials as society accepts a virtual lockdown and kerb on socialising.
Meanwhile, over 30 companies and academic institutions around the world are racing to create a vaccine to this deadly Covid-19 strain of coronavirus. However, World Health Organisation officials maintain that a vaccine won’t be available before “the middle of next year” despite human trials of a vaccine beginning in some countries, including Australia.
Viral infections are generally harder to cure than bacterial infections because they can’t be treated with antibiotics. Treatments tend to focus on alleviating the symptoms – coughs, headaches, fever – while our immune systems fight the virus alone.
But on a positive note, Australian researchers have discovered that our immune systems respond to covid-19 in the same was as we do to influenza by producing similar defensive cells in the blood.
There are reportedly 15 potential vaccines on trial around the world that range from synthetic to modified virus cells. Australian researchers are focusing on two drugs that are showing promise in combating Covid-19: an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine (rarely used now as the malaria pathogen has developed resistance to it), and one of the HIV drugs used to treat AIDS.
Similarly, as reported in New Scientist magazine, Chinese doctors are focusing on two HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, as well as the anti-Ebola virus drug remdesivir.
Councils, our local elected officials whose social services we rely upon for many of our needs, from garbage collection to community resources (like libraries and swimming pools), are implementing measures to respond to the international crisis.
Below is a summary of the steps taken by councils around central Sydney to help prevent the spread of the contagion.
* Committee and Council meetings will still be held in person at this stage, as required under the Local Government Act, but social distancing measures will be in place. Members of the public are encouraged to watch these meetings on livestream rather than attending in person.
* All temporary closure periods may be subject to extension.
* Customers can still access a range of customer services online
* All other services are running as usual for now, but the situation may change.
* Cancellation of all non-essential City of Sydney events.
* Temporary closure of Glebe, Kings Cross and Green Square customer service centres for one month from 19 March.
* Restricted opening hours of 11am–1pm, Mon to Fri, from 19–31 March at Darling Square, Green Square and Custom House Libraries as well as Redfern, Juanita Nielsen, Reginald Murphy, Ron Williams, Cliff Noble and Harry Jensen community centres to enable vulnerable people to access computers and Pyrmont community centre for access to the library link.
* Temporary closure from 19–31 March of all other City of Sydney libraries.
* Temporary closure from Fri 20 March until Fri 3 April of all City of Sydney aquatic and fitness centres.
* Temporary closure from 19–31 March of Pine Street Creative Arts Centre, King George V Recreation Centre and all other community centres.
* Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) in community centres at Redfern, Pyrmont, Ultimo, Woolloomooloo and King George V will continue to operate as normal.
* Hirers of City of Sydney venues will work with the council on whether their events proceed, as circumstances evolve.
* Smaller public events will be reviewed case-by-case.
* City of Sydney is not the responsible agency for all public events in our local government area.
Inner West Council (IWC)
* As a result of public pressure, Inner West Council have reinstated council meetings and briefings after Mayor Darcy Byrne and CEO Michael Deegan unilaterally stopped them.
* IWC is redirecting all face to face customer service enquiries to our Leichhardt Service Centre until further notice. Location: 7-15 Wetherill Street, Leichhardt. Hours: 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
* Alternatively, lodge a request online or speak with a Customer Service Officer on 9392 5000.
* Extra cleaning and hygiene measures have been put in place at all Council facilities.
* IWC has established an Incident Management Team to oversee how the COVID-19 response is organised.
* The grants program has been postponed to 1 Oct subject to further notice.
* IWC events are cancelled immediately until further notice.
* Environment workshops are cancelled until further notice.
* Aquatics classes and programs are suspended until further notice, including Squads, Group Fitness and Learn to Swim.
* Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre (LPAC) will remain open, subject to advice from NSW Health. The creche is also closed. The gym and public lap swimming remain open at this stage.
* Annette Kellerman (9565 1906) and Fanny Durack Aquatic Centres (9550 9145), which are run by external service provider Belgravia Leisure, also remain open at this stage.
* Steel Park Waterplay Park is closed until further notice.
* Library activities are cancelled until further notice.
* All library members still have access to online membership and borrowing including access to books, audio books, movies, e-learning and magazines.
* Temporary Library closures: Emanuel Tsardoulias Community Library (Dulwich Hill), Haberfield, Stanmore and St Peters.
Reduced hours and services for Ashfield, Balmain, Leichhardt and Marrickville Libraries: Open Monday to Friday 9am-5.30pm. Closed weekends.
* Limited access to computers/printing/computers in 60 minute blocks. Borrowing of items using self-check-out machines only. After hours return chute access.
* Less than 100 people (including staff) in attendance at any one time.
* No overdue book fines will be applied until further notice.
* Home Library service continues as usual.
Childcare centres will remain open, subject to advice from NSW Department of Education
Venues and community centres:
Use of all IWC facilities is suspended for two weeks from 6pm on Sun 22 March 2020, encompassing all IWC programs, workshops and meetings, in addition to private hire and community group activities.
Ashfield Town Hall, Balmain Town Hall and Meeting Room, Leichhardt Town Hall, Marrickville Town Hall, Petersham Town Hall, St Peters Town Hall
Closed community centres: Annandale Community Centre, Hannaford Community Centre, Jimmy Little Community Centre, Tom Foster Community Centre, Ashfield Civic Centre Activity Rooms, Clontarf Cottage, Herb Greedy Hall, Leichhardt Market Place Community Room, Marrickville Pavilion and Learning Rooms, Mervyn Fletcher Hall, Michael Maher Room, Seaview Street Hall, Whites Creek Cottage and Stables, Yanada Room.
IWC Bookings Team: email@example.com
or call Brian Chadwell on 9392 5219 or Ilce Kostrevski on 9392 5775
Council Meetings (meetings attended by the Mayor and Councillors) are still proceeding. The next Council Meeting on Tues 24 March has been relocated from the Randwick Town Hall to the Prince Henry Centre in Little Bay to enable a safe 1.5 metre space (and no handshaking) between the Councillors and others in attendance.
Members of the public who want to speak on a matter listed on the agenda will be invited into the meeting to address Council. Members of the public who are not specifically addressing an item on the business paper will NOT be admitted to the Council meeting for public health & safety reasons.
* Local Precinct Meetings are suspended until further notice given the risk to attendees.
* There is no impact to waste collection services.
* Randwick City’s three branch libraries will close as of Thursday 19 March 2020.
* Library events, programs and activities are cancelled. This includes children’s story-time sessions, talks, classes, workshops and book clubs
* If you have paid a fee to attend, an event, program or activity, Council staff will be in contact with you to arrange a refund.
* The Toy and Game Library is closed at all branches. Memberships will be extended for the temporary closure period.
* Library venue bookings by external parties have been suspended. Hirers are being notified directly.
* The Des Rendford Leisure Centre (DRLC) in Maroubra will partially close as of Thurs 19 March. The outdoor pool and gym remain open. The following services are temporarily suspended:
Aquatic programs including Learn to Swim, squad programs, Coffee Club and all other group bookings,
All pools except for the outdoor Olympic pool, Crèche, Group fitness classes, including Gym Fit Teen, Aqua Aerobics, Cycle and Stronger 4 Life, Vacation Care and all other holiday programs, birthday parties and the café.
Cancelled events and activities:
Anzac Day services (including Coogee Dawn Service), 25 April 2020; April school holiday Marine & Coastal Discovery Program, 17 – 21 April 2020; Volunteer Bushcare events – until further notice; Exhibition opening Happy Valley: La Perouse in the Depression and Beach Couture: A Haute Mess, 26 March 2020 (although exhibitions are still open to the public); Recycling Centre tours – March and April 2020; Cloth Nappy workshops throughout March and April 2020; Dean Kelly – Gudo the Ocean Gives Us Life, Fri 27 March; Deidre Martin – Weaving at La Perouse Museum, Sat 25 April; Dean Kelly / Kadoo Tours in May (all three) – Biennale Program; Ray Timbery – Bommerangs on the Headland, Sun 17 May; Free Mulch Campaign, Sat 6 June is currently on hold; Workshop for Supervising Drivers, Tues 24 March; Citizenship Ceremony, Thurs 2 April; Introduction to Solar and Batteries will now be conducted as an online webinar, Thurs 26 March; PermaBee, EcoHeroes Club, School Sustainability incursions and Randwick Sustainability Hub tours – cancelled until further notice.
* Council is directly notifying registered participants at Council-run events. We suggest checking with event organisers prior to attending events and activities.
Libraries + Cultural Centres:
* Waverley Library will be closed until further notice. The Customer Service Centre and Library remain open at this time, as do our cultural centres such as Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Pavilion Gallery and the Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre. This will be reviewed regularly.
All Library events and programs cancelled
Early Childhood Educations Centres remain open at the current time and are closely following health advice.
Cancelled events and activities:
Ocean Lovers Festival; Charing Cross Festival; Jazz @ the Pav; Bondi Blitz; Mermaid Festival; Summer Daze Festival (5 April, 2 May); Business Forum; ANZAC Sunday on 19 April; Global Table.
* Non-essential Council-run events and programs will be cancelled or postponed until further notice, including some Seniors Centre programs and events and smaller-scale community events.
* Upcoming School Holiday Program is currently under review and a decision on whether they will go ahead will be made over the next weeks.
* Pottery classes and the Music Studio programs will continue.
Please check the Council website if you were scheduled to attend an event and contact the event organiser if you are unsure if an event or program is going ahead. Council’s website will be kept up to date as will our social media platforms.
* All Council staff not identified as critical to attend Council in order to carry out their functions are working from home.
* Customer Service Centre remains open, key frontline staff continue to work on site and critical services including emergency response and waste and recycling collection continue to operate as normal.
* All outdoor operations are continuing unaffected but this situation will be reviewed on a daily basis. It is likely that reduced or skeleton staffing will be introduced over the coming weeks.
* All Council libraries are closed until further notice. Library staff will still be available via phone on 9391 7100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cancelled events and activities:
* Council events will not proceed until further notice. Bookings of all council buildings and facilities are under review.
Community support services
Counselling and support
* Headspace – online and telephone counselling for young people, ph 1800 551800
* Link2home – 24hr referral to accommodation and services, ph 1800 152 152
* Missionbeat – homelessness outreach, welfare checks, etc, ph 1800 306 461
* Domestic Violence Helpline NSW – ph 1800 656 463
* NSW Ageing & Disability Abuse Helpline, ph 1800 628 221 (9am to 5pm M-F)
Fire, Police, Ambulance, dial: 000