Four new local COVID cases have been reported in New South Wales, and health authorities are raising the alarm in the state’s west after an infected person took a rural camping trip.
People living in the Berala area have also now been banned from attending this week’s Sydney Test cricket match, with $1000 fines to be enforced.
Two of the new cases announced on Tuesday morning are linked to the cluster around the BWS bottle shop at Berala.
Another case was thought to be linked to this group as well but remained under investigation. The fourth case was a close contact of someone infected in the Croydon cluster.
NSW recorded four new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. Two of these cases, linked to the Berala cluster, were first reported yesterday morning, but are included in today’s numbers. pic.twitter.com/DPMTeyuCEY
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 5, 2021
Some 26,391 tests were conducted in the latest reporting period, in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday. Authorities say they want test numbers to be more in the 30-40,000 mark each day, and urged more people to come forward for testing.
It comes after Victoria recorded just three new cases in the last day.
While numbers remain low in NSW, health authorities have issued alerts for people living in Orange, Nyngan and Broken Hill, in the state’s west.
Chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said this came after an 18-year-old man who had shopped at the Berala BWS had taken a camping trip in those areas.
He organised to get tested on Monday following new venue alerts for customers of that shop.
“Can I thank this individual. They got a text from us, saying you had been in that BWS on the 24th. Woke up, had a little bit of a runny nose just yesterday. He went out and got a test and did the right thing,” Dr Chant said.
“This gentleman was totally unaware of the issues, acted promptly on our text message and thank you so much.”
Following the capacity of the Sydney Test cricket match being slashed to just 25 per cent yesterday, health minister Brad Hazzard said people living in suburbs around Berala “must not” attend the game. He said a new public health order would level $1000 fines on people from this area who attended the match.
“If you live in Auburn, Berala, Lidcombe North, Regents Park or Rookwood, we would love you at the test in a non-COVID year, but we can’t,” Mr Hazzard said.
“The SCG have asked you not to come.”
Acting premier John Barilaro also urged those from regional NSW to reconsider plans to attend, citing fears of travellers potentially bringing the virus from Sydney back to the regions. He added that further changes may be required for the game.
“We continue to work with the SCG in relation to hosting the event. We’ll be making decisions and possibly changes right up to the first ball,” Mr Barilaro said.
“We are remaining flexible and looking to the advice we received from Dr Kerry Chant’s team.”
The Australian Medical Association has led calls for the match to be played in front of empty stands because of the risk it poses as a potential COVID-19 super-spreading event.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier said it was “great” that the match would have a crowd.
“It’s been done in a safe way,” he told 2GB Radio on Tuesday.
“They’ve got a good plan to deal with that, based on the medical advice.”
Variant strain found in WA
Three people who tested positive for COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine Perth have now been found to have the more transmissible UK variant of the virus.
Premier Mark McGowan said the genomic testing had confirmed the UK strain, emphasising the importance of the secure quarantine arrangements.
“It just goes to show that we’re not out of the woods with COVID,” the premier said on Tuesday.
“It’s insidious. It’s out there, it’s causing havoc around the world. It’s causing mass deaths in Britain and the United States.
“We are COVID free, and therefore we are very fortunate and I want to keep it that way.
“I want us to keep the virus out and make sure that we do everything we can to prevent it from coming into our state, including keeping borders in place.”
Mr McGowan has also backed testing returning travellers before they board flights to Australia, especially those coming out of places like the UK and the USA.
“I think it would be a great safety mechanism to ensure that people coming out of many countries around the world have a test and confirm they are negative before they board a flight with hundreds of other Australians,” he said.
“And I think that safety measure should be implemented. To me, this is a no brainer.
“If we do this, we can better protect our citizens.”
Victoria logs three local cases
Victoria has recorded three new locally acquired coronavirus cases for a third straight day, and another strong testing figure.
A total of four new infections have been reported in Victoria on Tuesday, including one case in hotel quarantine.
The new cases came from 32,544 tests, a marginal increase from Monday’s figure with wait times reducing significantly as testing capacity ramped up further.
The state’s number of active cases stands at 38.
Yesterday there were 3 new local and 1 international case reported. 32,544 results were received. Thanks to all who were tested – #EveryTestHelps us #StaySafeStayOpen.
More information coming later: https://t.co/lIUrl0ZEco #COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/1kSwk3bJNN
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) January 4, 2021
The daily update comes as a stranded family with a disabled child and another with special needs remain among the thousands of Victorians seeking an exemption to return from NSW.
More than 2300 applications have been made for exemptions to cross the NSW border after it slammed shut on Friday night, with only 175 processed on Sunday.
Testing commander Jeroen Weimar said medical exemptions are being processed quickly but others are taking 24 to 48 hours.
Former federal Labor leader Bill Shorten has revealed a family stuck on the NSW south coast contacted him in a bid to expedite their border exemption.
“I’ve been dealing with a constituent of mine,” Mr Shorten told Nine’s Today.
“Her and her husband they’ve got a disabled child and another child with special needs.
“Far better to have this child, this 11-year-old, looked (after) at home, rather than stuck in south coast NSW.”
The former federal opposition leader said he would be “hitting the phones” on Tuesday to ensure their exemption was sorted out.
He said the exemption system “doesn’t seem to be working the way it should” and implored Victoria’s health department to speed up the assessment process.
“Let’s just get it done quickly,” Mr Shorten said.
“A whole lot of Victorians on holiday (have been) caught off guard, no chance to sort this out.
“We need now the administrative follow-up to help make sure people are not stranded in some really tough circumstances, like the lady I’m talking about.”
Victorian health authorities are confident the Black Rock coronavirus cluster is on a “very positive trajectory”.
As of Monday, 24 cases were directly linked to the outbreak – all connected to the Buffalo Smile Thai restaurant in bayside Melbourne and linked back to a cluster in NSW.
More than 1000 primary and secondary contacts are isolating and a growing number of exposure sites have been identified.
More to come.