Covid 19 coronavirus: Sydney cluster grows again, further restrictions imposed

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has reported 30 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours and will impose tighter restrictions across the Greater Sydney area.

Berejiklian said 28 of the new cases “have already been directly linked to the Avalon [Northern Beaches] cluster” where the virus was acquired.

Two of the new cases are from an unknown source and have yet to be traced, although they both live in the Northern Beaches area.

“So while the numbers are higher today than yesterday, the one positive is we still have not seen evidence of massive seeding outside the Northern Beaches community and our aim, of course, is to keep that in place,” Berejiklian said.

The NSW government will also impose new restrictions for Greater Sydney.

“Everybody in the Greater Sydney area including the Blue Mountains and Central Coast, we ask you to not have more than 10 people in your home in addition to whoever lives in your home until midnight on Wednesday,” the Premier said

Indoor venues will now have to adhere to the four square metre rule, after previously having to only have to adhere to a two square metre rule per person.

“Until further notice we revert back to the four square metres rule in all indoor settings apart from the family home,” Berejiklian said.

All events will now be capped at 300 people to assist health authorities in contact tracing efforts.

Finding source of outbreak

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said finding the source of the northern beaches outbreak might be a “challenge beyond us”.

Chant told reporters an “intensive investigation” is underway into the outbreak. She said at this stage genomic sequencing suggests the outbreak came from a US traveller who was in hotel quarantine. The virus passed through an unknown carrier before spreading to the Northern Beaches.

“Can I just say, there is an intensive investigation under way and while I really do want to find the source, it may be that this is going to be a challenge beyond us,” she said. “But we are doing everything we can.”

Contact tracers were continuing to seek out the “earliest possible case” and anyone who had been in contact with that individual.

“We have to keep an open mind because there may yet be an unknown source,” Chant said.

Lockdown of the Northern Beaches

Sydney’s Northern Beaches area went into lockdown at 5pm (local time) last night and will stay in lockdown until midnight on Wednesday.

For residents in the area, it means that they can only leave their home for essential purposes such as for work, for compassionate grounds, for exercise or to go shopping.

The localised, mandatory lockdown was finalised by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard in a public health order that carries heavy penalties for those who violate the restrictions.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said officers have been pleased with the northern beaches community after the first night of lockdown.

“Overwhelmingly the people across the Northern Beaches as the public health orders came into existence have behaved well,” he said.

NZ monitoring situation

The New Zealand government says it is monitoring the new Covid-19 cluster in Sydney closely but it is too early to say if it will affect a trans-Tasman bubble.

“As previously stated, a travel bubble won’t start until the first quarter of 2021,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.

“Commencement is dependent on no significant change in the circumstances of either country.

“Decisions on whether or not to proceed with a travel bubble will occur in the new year and we will assess the situation at that point.

“We’re monitoring the situation closely, but it’s too early to make any decisions based on the current community cases in New South Wales.”

Mask issue sparks outrage in NSW

The NSW government’s failure to implement a mask mandate statewide has sparked outrage as the Northern Beaches cluster continues to grow.

With thousands of Sydney travellers converging on airports, trying to make their way to holiday destinations before possible restrictions come into force, the sight of people not wearing masks in crowded areas has led to suggest making face coverings mandatory.

“Been in Sydney for a week with work, stayed the weekend to see my girl. On way to airport early to escape back to the mid north coast. Hardly any one masked,” one man wrote on Twitter.

The NSW Government “strongly recommends” wearing a mask while on public transport, in areas where you can’t maintain a physical distance, at the shops, in vehicles with others, and if you develop symptoms.

Despite these recommendations, masks have not been mandated in NSW at any time throughout the pandemic.

– additional reporting RNZ

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