Coronavirus Covid 19: Mystery at centre of NSW cluster as authorities hunt for patient zero

Health authorities are still searching for ‘patient zero’ in the NSW Covid-19 cluster that has seen Australian states enforce new quarantine requirements, with cases expected to rise further over the weekend.

The northern beaches cluster rose to 28 cases on Friday with a host of affected venues on alert – ranging from the northern beaches to Bondi Junction and Cronulla.

Health officials have urged anyone across the state to present for testing with mild symptoms, while northern beaches residents have been told to stay home as much as possible for the next three days.

To compound matters, NSW health authorities are not yet confident they have found the original source of the outbreak, making it difficult to ensure every transmission route is being investigated.

Genomic testing shows the virus likely came from the US, however NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said on Thursday her “anxiety” was that “we haven’t found the direct transmission route”.

This means they can not be sure to have “locked every transmission line”.

One set of cases this week has been linked to the driver transporting flight crew, while another event is believed to have started at Avalon RSL in a potential super-spreader scenario.

University of Queensland virologist, Professor Ian Mackay, told the ABC finding the original source was critical.

“If we can find the index case, that means we can work forward from there to make sure all the contacts have been identified,” he said.

“If we can’t find the source, there’s always a possibility that some cases have been missed.”

It’s also important to know to ensure there are no holes in the system that could see cases slip through from overseas undetected.

“Where did this case come from? Is it through a leaky quarantine system? We assume it is because we don’t seem to have cases ticking along in Australia. But perhaps we do,” he said.

Meanwhile NSW has urged all residents to monitor for symptoms and come forward for testing as a new list of affected venues has been published in NSW and Queensland.

Northern beaches residents have been asked to stay home as much as possible over the weekend, with a list of potential sites stretching from Sydney’s northern beaches to Bondi Junction, Cronulla and Queensland.

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