New South Wales has recorded 18 new cases of coronavirus in the past day – a worrying surge in numbers compared to recent days – and a new cluster has been declared.
Nine of those cases are linked to the Northern Beaches cluster and six are linked to a new Croydon cluster in a suburb of Sydney’s inner west.
All six cases in the Croydon cluster are members of the same family and the source of the new cluster is under investigation.
But concerns the virus is spreading west were revealed by NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant as she announced the new cluster has at least 34 close contacts.
“There are six cases – three adults and three children, all members of the same extended family and they’re all linked to the cluster in the inner west which we’re now calling the Croydon cluster,” Dr Chant said.
“We are expecting there will be additional cases linked to that cluster just because of the number of close contacts and the close household contact that a number of those contacts had over the period of Christmas and the following days.
“That Croydon family had a number of gatherings over a number of days. There were (at least) 34 close contacts.
Dr Chant said investigators were yet to find a link between the Croydon and Northern Beaches clusters “despite 24 hours of really intensive investigations”.
“It’s not to say we won’t, but at this stage, that is concerning. We are also doing genome sequencing because, as I said, with Covid you’ve got to keep a very open mind and we will be making sure that this is the same Avalon [Northern Beaches] strain,” she said.
“Again, this highlights the fact that Covid could be anywhere, so that is why our advice about wearing a mask maintaining social distance in an while queuing.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stressed health officials still had the outbreak under control.
“The health advice is still such that we have a handle on the current outbreak,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I mean, obviously the Croydon cluster is concerning because there is no established link. But all the other cases, there is some crossover with venues or regions that we have identified as a concern.
“We request people to urgently get tested. That gives us a sense of the scope and how many we’re dealing with.”
There are three further locally-acquired cases still under investigation. Two cases, members of the same household, are from the Wollongong area and one is from northern Sydney.
Tough restrictions for New Year
Berejiklian announced there would be tougher restrictions for New Year’s Eve in light of the jump in new cases.
Households in Greater Sydney will now be limited to five people per household on New Year’s Eve.
“We don’t want New Year’s Eve to be the cause of a super-spreader [event],” Berejiklian said.
“Our preferred advice is that people just stay home for New Year’s Eve, but if you must have people over, don’t have more than five and please make sure you have adequate social distancing.”
Tougher restrictions also apply to outdoor gatherings, which have been reduced from 50 to just 30 people.
Additional restrictions for Sydney’s aged care homes have also been announced.
“As a precaution, until we further understand the community transmission across broader Sydney, we are taking a very precautionary approach to aged care visitors,” NSW’s chief medical officer said.
“So until at least 11.59pm on Wednesday, January 6, we’re asking all residential aged care facilities exclude visitors excepting those performing essential caring functions, and obviously end of life.”
The Premier pleaded for anyone in the state with even the mildest of symptoms to come forward for testing in a bid to get on top of the outbreak.
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