Half a million masks are on their way to aged-care facilities in south-western Sydney as the region grapples with a surge in COVID-19 infections.
The masks will help bolster defences against the virus – which is especially deadly for elderly people.
In Victoria, which is in the grip of a coronavirus outbreak, three people in their 80s and 90s have died in two days. Their deaths – reported as the state posted its 10th day of triple-digit COVID infection increases on Wednesday – brought Australia’s coronavirus toll to 111.
The Sydney outbreak centred on the Crossroads Hotel in Casula had 33 confirmed linked infections by Wednesday morning.
One is a person who visited an aged care home at nearby Prestons Lodge. No other cases have yet been identified at home but it has been put into lockdown as a precaution.
A Prestons Lodge spokesman said there had been extensive testing of residents and staff since the revelation.
“We are taking every step as recommended by authorities and we want to make residents, their families, our dedicated staff and community aware of this situation and re-assure everyone we are working tirelessly to protect our residents and staff,” the spokesman said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the mask delivery for local aged-care centres.
He said all of the recent community transmission of the virus in NSW was due to the Crossroads Hotel outbreak, which he said was “heartening”.
He said NSW health authorities were set on contact tracing potentially thousands of people who had visited the hotel during the window of concern, from July 3-10.
“They are testing, they are tracing, they are isolating, so they are taking those steps,” he said.
On Wednesday, that included the Melbourne man who has been identified as the outbreak’s likely “patient zero”.
The man, who works for a freight company, is thought to have infected several work colleagues after heading into his company’s office in Sydney on June 30.
He then went to the Crossroads Hotel at Casula with workmates for a party on July 3. By July 10 there were two confirmed infections in the surrounding area with the pub as their only connection.
There are now dozens of venues across Sydney and southern NSW where authorities fear the virus might have spread. They include The Star casino, West Leagues Club in Campbelltown and a Woolworths in Bowral.
- Planet Fitness (Casula), with two confirmed cases
- Bankstown YMCA (Revesby)
- Milky Lane (Parramatta)
- Bavarian Macarthur (Campbelltown)
- Macarthur Tavern (Campbelltown)
- West Leagues Club (Campbelltown)
- Kmart (Casula)
- Picton Hotel (Picton)
- See a full list of sites here
Elsewhere, Queensland has threatened to add more Sydney suburbs to its list of coronavirus hotspots. On Tuesday, it restricted entry for everyone in the local government areas of Liverpool and Campbelltown – more than 70 south-western Sydney suburbs.
Police reported delays of up to two hours at the M1 border between Queensland and NSW on Wednesday. Every car with NSW number plates was being checked.
“I don’t make any apologies about delays at the borders. I’ve asked people to plan their trips, it’s really important because we have hotspots in NSW and we have closed borders to Victoria,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
She said there was a daily watch on whether more areas of Sydney should be added to the banned list.
“We’d have to see greater spread of the outbreak”, she said, before the whole of the Sydney metro area was banned.
“At this stage the outbreak is confined to those areas, and the chief health officer is comfortable with those areas we’ve declared as hot spots,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
On Wednesday, the Northern Territory joined Queensland in slamming its border shut to Sydneysiders.
“We will declare all local government areas in greater metropolitan Sydney as hotspot areas for the purposes of travel to the Northern Territory,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.