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University campus closed as state battles to stay ahead of virus spread

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A Gold Coast university campus has been closed, schools are on alert and major events will come under greater scrutiny as health authorities seek to prevent the transmission of coronavirus within Queensland.

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To date, there has been no confirmed case of locally acquired COVID-19 in Queensland, despite some cases interstate, with 18 people found to have acquired the disease while travelling.

However, authorities have ordered hundreds of people to self-isolate and are poised to shut down institutions and cancel major events in an effort to contain the disease.

Southern Cross University today closed its Gold Coast and Lismore campuses as a precaution. A staff member had attended workshops at both campuses last week before travelling to The Philippines where he was this week diagnosed with COVID-19.

About 45 people came into contact or proximity with the man during his time on campus, while the university will today embark on a major cleaning and disinfection effort.

“Our priority at all times is the wellbeing of our staff, students and visitors so we apologise for this short disruption but it is the right thing to do,” said Southern Cross University’s Allan Morris.

Two University of Queensland students have also been diagnosed with COVID-19, and one attended the St Lucia campus while contagious. There have yet to be any closures as a result however Queensland Health is conducting contact tracing.

Education Queensland, meanwhile, has banned state schools from sending students or staff on overseas trips, other than to New Zealand. Individual schools have also urged parents to keep any unwell students at home, and plan for possible closures, when subjects would be taught remotely.

Tonight, the Federal Government will extend its travel bans to Italy. Overseas, major sporting events have been postponed or held without spectators as a precaution, however in Australia that has yet to occur. Hobart’s Dark Mofo festival has been pre-emptively cancelled, while the outcome of the Melbourne Grand Prix this weekend may set a precedent.

The Queensland tourism downturn caused by the cancellation of international flights has also been compounded by a reduction in business travel, as private companies take precautions, and fewer conferences are being scheduled. The sector is the worst hit by travel restrictions and the cancellation of mass gatherings.

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