NSW premier touts relaxation of Sydney Covid restrictions for Christmas | New South Wales

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The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has said “very modest” relaxations to coronavirus restrictions will serve to better contain Sydney’s cluster within the northern beaches over Christmas, as authorities allow a three-day window for outsiders to enter parts of the state’s locked-down hotspot for festivities.

The relaxations were unveiled as the state announced eight new Covid-19 cases from 41,865 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, as well as a new transmission event occurring outside of the northern beaches area, at a deli in Paddington in Sydney’s inner east.

The relaxations come amid escalating tensions between Berejiklian and Annastacia Palaszczuk, with the Queensland premier on Wednesday saying it is “a bit rich” for her NSW counterpart to blame Queensland for reintroducing its hard border closure.

“If there hadn’t been the cluster outbreak in the northern beaches, well no one would have had to take these measures and everybody would have been seeing their family and friends over this Christmas … It’s a bit rich for New South Wales to start blaming Queensland and Victoria and whichever other state and territory she wants to blame,” Palaszczuk said.

The Christmas relaxations, which will come into effect for Christmas Eve on Thursday and last until the end of Boxing Day on Saturday, allow for children under 12 to be exempt from the 10-person cap on visitors for home gatherings across greater Sydney, the central coast, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains.

The 10 visitors to the home must be the same people throughout each day. From 27 December, children under 12 will again count towards the 10-visitor limit.

Berejiklian also announced the northern beaches hotspot region will be split into a northern and southern section.

The southern section of the northern beaches – anyone south of the Narrabeen Bridge – will be allowed to visit the homes of others who live in the southern section, a freedom not currently permitted as part of the four essential reasons to leave their home under the lockdown.

Residents cannot leave the southern zone of the northern beaches area.

The relaxation also allows for anyone in Sydney or NSW – so long as they aren’t residents of the northern section of the northern beaches – to enter a household in the southern section as a guest.

Residents in the southern section will be allowed to welcome up to 10 visitors to their home over the three-day easing. Children under 12 will not count towards this visitor total.

Authorities may decide to extend the relaxations for the southern section after Boxing Day.

However, residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge, the area where the majority of the Avalon cluster cases have been acquired, will have to comply with the strictest conditions for Christmas.

Over the three-day easing, residents will have a new reason for leaving their home – to visit others within their zone.

They will also be allowed to welcome five visitors, with children counting towards the total, into their homes, as long as the visitors reside in the northern peninsula zone.

Northern section residents will still be restricted from leaving their homes, unless for one of the four essential reasons listed as part of the public health order. No one will be able to leave or enter the northern section unless for the four approved reasons as part of the lockdown.

The northern region will revert to the existing lockdown restrictions on 27 December.

Asked if she was risking spreading Covid-19 so she could save Christmas, Berejiklian said the temporary changes were “stretching what we think is appropriate”, and took into account the mental health of locked-down residents.

“They’re modest tweaks and modest changes to account for the fact that everybody has had a very difficult year and some people’s stress levels and mental health capacity is already at breaking point,” she said.

She also said the relaxation that allows outsiders to enter the southern section of the northern beaches is aimed at dissuading people in the zone from “going to a hospitality event [for Christmas] outside of that northern beaches community”.

“The logic is obviously by not moving out of your region, you’re reducing the mingling” Berejiklian said.

“We thought about the logic of this to a large extent and we came to the conclusion that we want to reduce the chance of a venue outside of the northern beaches having a case which then spreads. That’s why we’ve done what we have. We want to keep an open mind but, again, many people may decide not to enter the northern beaches.

“We’re trying to be as generous as we can but we can’t be any more generous than [what] we’ve done.”

The chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said that of the state’s eight new cases, one is the male partner of a female health worker who transported returned travellers, which was announced on Tuesday but only recorded in Wednesday’s numbers.

However, Chant said that despite NSW Health previously believing the worker caught the coronavirus from returned international travellers, investigators now believe the worker’s infection is linked to the northern beaches cluster.

She said “genome sequencing shows it is linked to the Avalon cluster”, but that authorities “do not know how this is linked to the Avalon cluster” so are yet to add the cases to the cluster’s current total of 97.

Chant also revealed details of a Qantas worker who had tested positive for Covid-19. The Qantas employee had returned from a repatriation flight that landed in Darwin and had flown on a domestic flight to Sydney on 18 December.

Chant was unable to say if the worker had been tested for Covid-19 upon arrival in Darwin, before flying to Sydney. She said she had only just learned about the case before the press conference, and was liaising with Northern Territory Health. However, she said new rules for air crews entering NSW, introduced on Tuesday, required them to be swabbed.

Chant said she had become increasingly concerned about anyone who visited the Paddington Alimentari deli from 17-19 December, as authorities believe a diner became infected at the deli from a fellow Covid-19 positive patron linked to the northern beaches.

Chant also mentioned authorities knew of residents on the central coast and in western Sydney who had Covid-19, and urged residents of Gosford and surrounds to get tested after sewage analysis showed traces of Covid-19.

Authorities will make a decision regarding restrictions for New Year’s Eve and upcoming sporting events after the Christmas period.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NSW premier touts relaxation of Sydney Covid restrictions for Christmas | New South Wales

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