New South Wales recorded no new COVID cases on Sunday, but acting premier John Barilaro has pleaded for residents to get tested as he says current testing numbers are “far too low”.
While no new local cases emerged in the latest 24-hour reporting period, two people did test positive after the 8pm cut-off. They will be included in Monday’s numbers when they are published on Tuesday morning.
The two new cases are connected to the BWS bottle shop in Berala.
The latest statistics – the first time NSW has recorded no new cases since December 15 – have been revealed as the state started enforcing its mandatory mask rules. An extra seven cases were detected in NSW’s hotel quarantine.
Victoria has recorded three new cases, after the Sydney outbreak spread to that state.
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 4, 2021
Thousands of people who shopped at the BWS bottle shop at Berala in late December, the epicentre of the growing cluster, are currently in isolation for 14 days. But a relatively low number of 22,200 tests were carried out on Sunday, a number that Mr Barilaro said needed to increase.
“The numbers are far too low,” he said.
“My message today is, again, if we’re going to succeed in staying ahead of the COVID pandemic, testing is crucial in large numbers so we can be confident of the data when we’re making decisions as we progress going forward.”
Mr Barilaro said police would be enforcing mandatory mask rules from Monday, and that authorities would consider “everything on the table” to restrict further virus spread, but ruled out further lockdowns.
“I can make this clear today – there won’t be any lockdown of the Cumberland area, no other lockdown in any other parts of Sydney,” he said.
“The restrictions we have in place are strong enough to deal with what we have in front of us and, of course, the mandating of masks gives us an ability for mobility and to go forward.”
Mr Barilaro also defended Sydney sticking to holding the cricket Test match against India from Thursday, saying NSW Health was working with the Sydney Cricket Ground to keep the event safe.
However, he flagged that the SCG would make an announcement about the match later in the day.
Victoria logs new cases
Victoria had earlier announced three new local COVID cases, from 32,000 tests yesterday.
Victoria has recorded three new locally acquired coronavirus cases as long queues form again outside testing sites and residents are urged to get back into COVID-safe habits.
Another additional case came from hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 36.
The Black Rock cluster in bayside Melbourne, seeded from NSW’s northern beaches outbreak, prompted a swift crackdown by the state government on border rules last week.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Prime Minister Scott Morrison should step in deal with some of the “confusion” around borders and travel nationwide.
“It would be far preferable if we had some form of national coordination and national leadership of these issues,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.
“We need a far more consistent response.”
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said people could have been forgiven for thinking it was all over, after 60 days of zero cases in his state.
“But this virus was never going to just go away,” he tweeted.
As hard as it is, we all have to kick back into gear and get on top of it.
“If you need support to isolate – whether that’s financial, food or anything else – call the hotline and we’ll make sure you get it,” he tweeted on Monday.
Queensland recorded no new locally acquired cases on Monday, but has five overseas acquired cases.
State authorities across the country are scrambling to deal with with dual pressures of an influx of school holiday travellers seeking to cross borders and people wanting COVID-19 testing.
There have been reports of waits of up to six hours for testing in Queensland.
Mr Albanese, a self-confessed sports fan, said he would not be attending the Test cricket match which starts on Thursday in Sydney.
“The problem is it sends mixed messages,” he said.
“The idea that you had to have just five people in your home on New Year’s Eve, but you can have 20,000 people at the Sydney Cricket Ground, is something that Gladys Berejiklian and the NSW government needs to explain.”
Sydneysiders who flout new mandatory mask rules from Monday risk a $200 fine.
But NSW police have been asked to exercise discretion in handing out fines to those who ignore the new rules.
Masks are mandatory in shopping centres, on public transport, in places of worship, hair and beauty premises, entertainment venues such as cinemas and other indoor venues like post offices and banks.
Hospitality workers are also required to wear one.
Mandatory masks have been introduced as a suburban bottle shop causes a headache for authorities trying to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Tens of thousands of people have been affected.
NSW Health is currently treating 125 people with COVID-19, none of whom are in intensive care.
NSW police say a southwest Sydney venue operator will be fined $5000 after hosting a wedding attended by at least 600 people.
Queensland is keeping a close eye on case numbers in NSW and Victoria as it weighs up further action.
More than 60,000 Victorians rushed back from NSW as a hard border between the two states came into effect on Friday night. All were required to be tested on their return.
That’s put facilities under strain, forcing some sites to extend testing hours and staff to be recalled from holidays to meet the extra demand.
Testing capacity was boosted by almost half, taking total sites on Sunday to 190.
It is expected to increase further on Monday, although DHHS listed wait times of over two hours for Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (240 minutes), Darebin Arts Centre (185) and Chadstone – Golfers Drive (150).
People seeking an exemption to travel have been directed to call the helpline, but were told to call back because of a high volume of calls on Sunday.
The line was still unavailable to callers on Monday morning.
More than 1500 Victorians have applied for exemptions to the state’s border closure with NSW, but so far authorities have granted just 117.
Applications are taking up to 48 hours to consider. Nearly half have had further documentation requested.
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s Federation Square and several major shopping stores have been added to Victoria’s growing list of exposure sites.
A case attended the CBD hub on December 23 from 11am to 11.30am. Anyone who attended the site at those times should monitor for symptoms, and undergo testing and isolate if they develop.
The same advice applies to those who visited IKEA Springvale from 4pm to 6pm on December 29, as well as Kmart and Coles in Burwood East the day before at specific times.