Sydneysiders are staring down a worrying coronavirus outbreak, with the NSW Premier telling people in affected areas to cancel their plans in case they end up as close contacts of a diagnosed case.
NSW Health expects to upgrade some exposure sites from casual to close contact as it tackles fears the virus is spreading between people who have had only minimal contact.
“If you are a casual contact please don’t go anywhere, cancel
your plans,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
“Health might say in the next few hours you are a close contact – and we don’t want you and your family and loved ones disappointed … the people you have come into contact with will have to spend two weeks at home. We don’t want people to go through that.”
- The growing list of exposure sites can be found here.
NSW confirmed one new local case on Friday, a man in his 50s who tested positive after “fleeting” contact with an infected shopper at Bondi Junction in Sydney’s east.
“It appears from CCTV cameras that it could have been a very fleeting contact between the infectious person and this gentleman,” Ms Berejiklian said.
- See an updated list of NSW exposure sites here
He will officially be included in numbers for Saturday because his positive test was returned after 8pm Thursday.
Ten exposure sites were added to NSW Health’s lists on Friday – including the Alkalizer cafe in Campbelltown. It is more than 50 kilometres from Bondi Junction, where this week’s outbreak has been centred.
In other moves to halt the expanding cluster, masks become mandatory on public transport in Sydney and the Blue Mountains from 4pm on Friday, for at least five days.
Virus spread ‘scary’, says NSW Premier
Casual contacts of people with coronavirus do not have to isolate. But Ms Berejiklian urged them to stay home as the number of contacts connected to the Bondi cluster climbed to more than 100.
They should also stay away from hospitals and aged-care homes.
“Some people for some reason aren’t contagious and some are extremely contagious. The randomness of that is what makes it scary,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We are recommending that if you go to an indoor (Sydney) venue you wear a mask, whether it is a cinema, hospitality or front-line hospitality workers.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard encouraged everyone to keep fighting the spread by doing the right thing.
“The one thing we do know is that this COVID virus is like a guerilla fighter. It comes up when you least expect it. This is why we need to do all the things that we have been doing for the last 15 months,” Mr Hazzard said.
Bondi cluster connected to Sydney airport driver
Chief health officer Kerry Chant said the Bondi man who was confirmed with the virus on Friday had shopped at Myer Bondi Junction on Saturday at the same time as the COVID-positive airport limousine driver who is considered the cluster’s index case.
The Bondi man spent time in the same section of the department store as the driver, but the pair had no direct contact. He has contracted the same highly infectious Delta strain of the virus as the driver.
His symptoms began on Tuesday and while infectious he visited venues in Redfern, Newtown, Bondi Junction and Campbelltown and travelled on a train from Newtown to Bondi.
The man’s household contacts have tested negative and will quarantine for 14 days.
In other NSW COVID developments, a man in his 40s from Sydney’s north-west who returned a weak positive test is being considered a case. Authorities have been unable to rule his infection as historic.
He went to Canberra on Monday, leading to exposure sites in the ACT. His household contacts have all tested negative.
Yates Avenue Public School in north-west Sydney was closed on Friday after a number of its staff attended an exposure site.
Queensland updates travel ban
Meanwhile, other states have been quick to impose travel restrictions.
From 1am on Saturday any arrivals to Queensland will order anyone who arrives after having been in the Sydney suburb of Waverley in the past 14 days into hotel quarantine.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the tough line was because the virus had spread through such brief contact.
“They’re saying they believe it was fleeting contact, which is why we need to do this,” she said on Friday.
Queenslanders have also been told to reconsider travel to Sydney.
“People need to reconsider whether or not they should be travelling to Greater Sydney at this time,” chief health officer Jeannette Young said.
“They need to be prepared, that they may need to, when they come back, go to government hotel quarantine for 14 days.”
Western Australia and South Australia have shut their borders to anyone who has been at a NSW virus exposure site.
Victoria is asking people from the City of Sydney, Waverley and Woollahra council areas to get travel permits, have virus tests and isolate until they receive negative results.