News NSW teeters on wider lockdowns, border control and mask wearing as cluster numbers increase
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NSW teeters on wider lockdowns, border control and mask wearing as cluster numbers increase

NSW does not yet need to mandate mask wearing in public, according to the state government, as 13 new COVID-19 cases were recorded overnight.
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NSW authorities are urging people to avoid all non-essential travel amid an increase in coronavirus infections across the state and a push to restrict border traffic to Queensland and south to Victoria.

Deputy chief health officer Dr Jeremy McAnulty said residents must “redouble their efforts” to slow the increasing spread of community transmission of the virus.

NSW had 13 new cases on Tuesday – all but one from community transmission.

“Everyone needs to be aware there has been transmission in venues such as hotels and restaurants, gyms and social gatherings and should exercise particular caution.

“It would be preferable and safer for the time being to avoid all non-essential travel and not host or attend gatherings of more than 10 people at home (not withstanding that the legal limit is 20 people),” he said.

“Everyone should observe social distancing and hygiene measures and consider wearing a face mask in situations where social distancing is not possible.”

There are now 50 cases associated with the Crossroads Hotel cluster in south-west Sydney, 26 with the Thai Rock restaurant in Stockland Mall and eight with the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club on the South Coast (which has now stabilised).

On Tuesday, 10 more infections were linked with Thai Rock – four diners and six contacts of people who had.

The two cases reported on Monday at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral are contacts of a Thai Rock diner.

NSW has had 3410 cases of COVID-19 and 51 people have died since the beginning of the global pandemic.

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The virus is also spreading in regional areas. In eastern Victoria and southern NSW, anger is growing after a host of shops, pubs and other venues were forced to close on Tuesday after confirmed cases of coronavirus.

“The Middle of Mogo, Courtyard Cafe, Mogo Fudge and Lots of Lollies Mogo will remain closed until further notice,” the Middle of Mogo shop on the NSW South Coast said on Facebook.

Across the border in Victoria, businesses and venues in east Gippsland towns – including Marlo, Orbost and Lakes Entrance – also closed after a visitor from Melbourne was confirmed with the virus.

However, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian insisted she would not jump ahead of health advice by mandating masks in public, despite the growing COVID-19 case load.

On Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian said she wouldn’t yet follow Victoria’s lead by enforcing masks but urged NSW residents to wear them where social distancing was impossible.

She said social distancing remained more important – while NSW Health has also encouraged people to avoid non-essential travel.

“What NSW Health and myself are worried about most at this moment in time is what people are doing when they’re entering hospitality venues … you can’t wear a mask when you’re having a meal,” Ms Berejiklian told 2GB radio.

“That’s where the biggest risk is at the moment, indoor events.

“The health advice to date has served NSW extremely well and it’s not for politicians to make this stuff up as we go.”

Biosecurity expert Professor Raina MacIntyre said she was still noticing people not keeping their distance.

“I have noticed it myself that nobody’s keeping a physical distance, nobody’s wearing a mask, and unless we do things, we may lose the freedoms that we have at the moment in Sydney,” she said.

“I think people should think about it as a social contract, that if we want to retain those freedoms to do the things we want to do, then in return we need to also do the right thing, maintain that physical distance of 1.5m, download the COVIDSafe app and wear a mask.”

NSW Labor wants Ms Berejiklian to ensure masks are being sold at reasonable prices for people who need them, and to secure adequate supply.

The country’s deputy chief health officer Michael Kidd told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, NSW residents living in areas of community transmission were advised to wear masks.

“For people in the areas where we’re seeing community transmission … it would be wise for people to be wearing a mask, particularly in situations where physical distancing is not going to be possible.

“This may include being on public transport, going into the supermarket if it is crowded, going into elevators in high buildings,” he said.

Border control with Queensland and Victoria

Meanwhile, the placement of checkpoints on the Queensland-NSW border remains a sore point for both premiers, with neither prepared to concede ground to make life easier for border town folk.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants the “border” moved south to the Tweed River to resolve traffic congestion in Tweed Heads and Coolangatta – where locals have been blocked in their driveways.

But Ms Berejiklian wants it moved north.

“Certainly, we will do the right thing by residents of both sides of the border but I have no intention of changing things as yet,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Meanwhile, Ms Palszczuk is considering blacklisting further NSW hotspots beyond Liverpool and Campbelltown.

Queensland has just two active COVID-19 cases while 90 people are being treated for the virus across NSW.

“We’re going to look at what happens in NSW today, but we are considering adding further hotspots at this stage,” she said.

From Wednesday, NSW will enforce tougher restrictions for people wanting to travel from Victoria, with a border zone to be set up along the Murray River and outstanding travel permits to be cancelled.

NSW Police reminded drivers that anyone wishing to cross the border into NSW from Victoria that they must reapply for permits as new restrictions will apply from Tuesday at midnight.

-with AAP