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New South Wales recorded 18 new cases of locally acquired Covid-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday including cases across greater Sydney, triggering the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to announce a range of new restrictions on New Year’s events.
Of the new cases, just half were linked to the northern beaches Avalon cluster. Eight of these people were already isolating. But Berejiklian said of particular concern were six cases outside of the known northern beaches cluster. Three adults and three children, all members of the same extended family, were part of a new cluster in Croydon, in Sydney’s inner west, and the premier said it was not clear how the family became infected. So far 34 close contacts of those cases had been identified.
“In particular, the Croydon cluster is of concern because there are no direct links [to existing clusters] at this stage,” Berejiklian said. “The health experts are working overtime with all extended family members who are involved to make sure that all contact details and venues and movements of that family are made apparent so we can identify all the close contacts.”
Three further locally acquired cases were under investigation. Two cases, members of the same household, were from the Wollongong area and one was from northern Sydney.
Given the current situation on the northern beaches and increasing concern about transmission in other parts of greater Sydney, which includes Wollongong, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains, Berejiklian announced new restrictions would be in place on New Year’s Eve. In greater Sydney household gatherings would be limited to five visitors including children. The limit for outdoor gatherings would be reduced from 50 to 30.
“Common sense is important, following our advice is important, even though the health orders allow you to do certain things, you’ve still got to make assessments to yourself as to what is safe and whether your vulnerable family members should be exposed, whether you have a symptom and should get tested and stay home and not participate in any gathering,” Berejiklian said. “The worst thing any of us can do is unintentionally give the virus to those closest to us.”
Restrictions for the northern zone of the northern beaches remain the same but for the southern zone of the northern beaches household gatherings will also be limited to five visitors from within that zone, including children. These changes come into effect from midnight Wednesday.
Asked whether the new cases and spread beyond the northern beaches meant the measures in place over Christmas had not worked, Berejiklian responded: “What this demonstrates to us is during a pandemic you have to take decisions based on the science and the data, and that’s exactly what we have done at every step of the way. And that’s exactly what we will continue to do.
“It’s always a balancing act of the health risk versus what restrictions you impose on the community, and every decision we have taken in NSW has been based on the health advice. Whenever the health advice changes … we respond very quickly.”
Testing rates needed to increase, the state’s chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said. There were 17,267 tests reported to 8pm Tuesday, compared with more than 69,o00 tests to 8pm last Thursday.
“Please get tested,” Chant said. “Don’t think it is the common cold, don’t think it’s another cause, we really need you to go and get tested and remain isolated. And please don’t even second-guess yourself. If you’re feeling a bit fatigued more than usual, if you think you have got some symptoms, don’t second-guess those symptoms.”
She shared her concern about the Croydon cluster and the importance of finding how that family became infected. Authorities had been hoping their infections would be linked to the northern beaches cluster, she said.
“That did not materialise. So clearly I think the premier and I are expressing the fact that we are concerned that … we have not found a link despite 24 hours of really intensive investigations. It’s not to say we won’t, but at this stage that is concerning.”
NSW Health has asked indoor diners and staff who attended Buckley’s craft beer bar on the Opera House promenade on 17 December between 7.30pm and 9pm to be tested immediately and isolate until they receive a negative result as part of investigations into the source of the case from Wollongong. The same advice has been given to anyone who attended an Open Air Cinema screening of the film Prom at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair on 17 December.
Masks were still not mandatory in NSW, but were recommended. Berejiklian said masks would be handed out to those attending the upcoming Sydney Test match, but they would not be mandatory. By comparison, masks were still mandatory in Victoria in supermarkets and other places where social distancing cannot be maintained, and people must continue to carry a face mask at all times when leaving home, despite no community Covid cases being recorded in that state for two months.
Asked why an outdoor cinema was a place of concern but an outdoor cricket match attended by more than 20,000 people was not, Berejiklian said: “Obviously we take a very precautionary approach, we do not know exactly whether that activity at the outdoor cinema was a place of concern, but as a precaution is the best advice we have,” she said.
“But as the best health advice tells us, outdoor ticketed seated events are safer than household gatherings, and that’s just a fact.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NSW records 18 new cases of Covid-19 and brings in tougher New Year’s Eve restrictions | Australia news