The NSW cabinet was holding a crisis meeting on Friday morning, ahead of the latest infections data – but a lockdown appears to remain off the table.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who is in isolation after his own COVID exposure, confirmed the meeting to the Nine Network.
“It’s the detail, the information we have behind the scenes that our expert health officials look at, that gives us the confidence to the make a decision and the advise at this stage is not to lock down,” he said.
“We’ll see what the numbers are like this morning when the crisis cabinet meets again at 9.30am.”
“But the advice could change in the next few hours, and it could change over the weekend.”
So far, there are 36 cases linked to the so-called Bondi cluster that erupted in the city’s east last week.
Mr Barilaro revealed on Thursday night that he had tested negative to the virus after being deemed a close contact of an infected person. He will isolate until July 6.
Mr Barilaro said he would have two more tests before he is released from isolation at midnight on July 6.
“I will continue to perform my duties as deputy premier while isolating and adhering to all health advice,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Late this afternoon I was contacted by NSW Health to notify me that I am considered a close contact of a postive case of COVID-19 and I am required to get tested and isolate.
— John Barilaro MP (@JohnBarilaroMP) June 24, 2021
The Sydney outbreak spread interstate on Thursday, with two Melbourne men confirmed with the virus. One is a man who attended so-called ‘super-spreader’ party in outer Sydney last weekend, the other is his co-worker.
Elsewhere, the NSW Parliament was declared a potential exposure venue on Thursday on one of its busiest days of the year, after Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall tested positive for the virus.
Ms Berejiklian was tested and cleared on Thursday morning, as was Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
Later in the day, NSW Health said anyone who visited Parliament on Tuesday – state budget day – must monitor for symptoms.
Anyone who visited the Strangers’ Dining Room at Parliament between 6-9pm must immediately get tested and self-isolate until they receive further information from NSW Health.
On Thursday, Ms Berejiklian said NSW was entering its “scariest” period since the pandemic began. But, despite widespread speculation of an impending lockdown, the Premier instead flagged a police blitz to nab anyone defying tough COVID restrictions.
“Since the pandemic has started, this is perhaps the scariest period that NSW is going through,” she said.
“It is a very contagious (Delta) variant but at the same time we are at this stage comfortable that the settings that are in place are the appropriate settings. But that is so long as everybody does the right thing.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was confident the NSW government could deal with the outbreak without shutting down Sydney.
“NSW, I have no doubt, has the gold standard contact-tracing system not just in Australia but in the world,” he told Sky News.
“My fellow Sydneysiders can feel very confident that if anyone can get on top of this without shutting the city down it is the NSW government.”
NSW had 18 new cases on Thursday, from 48,402 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm Wednesday, 13 of which were announced earlier.
Another six cases were detected after the 8pm cut-off. They will be included in Friday’s official tally.
More exposure sites have also been added, including two cafes in Potts Point, two cafes in Alexandria and a health club in Bondi Junction.
Second case over the border
Health authorities in Victoria are working to find close contacts of the second man who tested positive to COVID-19 on Thursday night.
He works at the same dry-cleaning business in the bayside Melbourne suburb of Sandringham, where a colleague tested positive on Wednesday.
The man’s family has been isolated and are being tested, with the state health department saying it is interviewing him further.
QR code data from the business is being analysed, while the man’s close contacts are being identified and contacted.
He is a close contact of the other worker at the dry cleaners. That man, who lives in nearby Oakleigh, tested positive on Wednesday after flying to see his daughter in Sydney and attending a party in West Hoxton, on Sydney’s outer south-western fringe, on Saturday night.
The gathering has since been declared a super-spreader event, with more than 12 attendees contracting the virus.
The Oakleigh man, who is in his 60s, returned to Melbourne on Jetstar flight JQ523, leaving Sydney at 5.30pm Sunday.
The flight and terminal four of Melbourne Airport have been listed as tier one exposure sites, as has the dry cleaning shop. It is shut for deep cleaning.
Despite the infections, Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne pushed ahead with easing restrictions on Friday.
Victoria has declared greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Shellharbour, Blue Mountains and Wollongong “red zones” under its permit system from 1am on Friday.
Air passengers are still able to fly out from Sydney Airport as long as they have not visited any red zone areas.
PM offers Qld quarantine facility
Mr Morrison has written to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk offering to pay for a purpose-built quarantine facility close to Brisbane Airport.
The proposed facility, at the Damascus Barracks at Pinkenba adjacent to the airport, could house up to 1000 returned travellers and help ease pressure on hotel quarantine.
A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk confirmed the letter had been received.
The move could help defuse a simmering row between the two governments about Queensland’s proposal for a quarantine facility at Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba, which Canberra has rejected.