NSW authorities have sounded the alarm after another day with a worrying jump in locally acquired coronavirus infections.
For the second day in a row, NSW confirmed more virus infections than Victoria on Wednesday, with 14.
They included 11 community cases, nine linked to the growing cluster surrounding a Lakemba GP clinic.
“I cannot stress enough that this is the most concerned we’ve been since that first incident when the Victorian citizen came up, infected his colleagues and went for a drink at a hotel,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, referring to the Crossroads Hotel cluster in south-western Sydney.
Another suspected case, a man in his 70s, in Bargo, south-west of Sydney, was also confirmed on Wednesday.
Ms Berejiklian said plans to further ease restrictions on venues had been dumped as health authorities rushed to control the new outbreaks.
Chief health officer Kerry Chant said she was concerned about testing numbers across the state. They fell to as low as 7000 on Monday.
“The numbers that we got overnight are just reminiscent to me of Crossroads, and it worries me that perhaps the community are not actually coming out in the numbers that we need to be tested,” she said.
“Each and every one of us, our community, are the front-line troops of a war on COVID and just thinking you might have hay fever is no excuse to not get tested. In fact, it’s the reason you should get tested.”
Elsewhere, Victorian authorities say the circumstances behind a worrying COVID outbreak in the regional town of Shepparton “beggar belief”.
There are already three positive cases in the town, 160 kilometres north of Melbourne, with more expected as a testing blitz gets underway.
Local politician Suzanna Sheed said Shepparton was behind the eight ball, with the virus circulating in the community for up to 12 days before it was detected.
The burgeoning cluster is linked to the Chadstone and Kilmore outbreaks. Authorities have confirmed the same person who was infected at Chadstone and then went to Kilmore on September 30 also went to Shepparton on the same day – but did not tell contact tracers.
“It would be an understatement to say we’re disappointed that we didn’t get all that information,” Deputy Premier James Merlino said on Wednesday.
“For someone to say they’ve been to Benalla but not mention that they’ve also been to Shepparton, it beggars belief.”
Shepparton accounted for four of Victoria’s daily tally of just seven new cases on Wednesday.
The welcome return to single figures after six days in double digits brought Melbourne’s key 14-day average back down under 10 to 9.6. There have been 14 mystery cases in the city in the past fortnight.
Premier Daniel Andrews said it will be up to Victoria Police whether the person will be fined for not disclosing the Shepparton visit. He told people to come clean with contact tracers about where they had been and when.
“There are infections in Shepparton today that we know of – and there is almost certainly going to be more – that were all completely preventable if this individual had told the full story,” he said.
“We all have a challenge that is greater than it should be.”
The Shepparton cases were discovered only when a local woman developed virus symptoms and went for testing.
Her work colleagues were then tested, with two others also positive and nine negatives, according to Victorian testing boss Jeroen Weimar.
Ms Sheed, the state independent member for Shepparton, said the Shepparton community had been virus-free for weeks and the outbreak will cause great anxiety.
“This is just the sort of thing we dreaded,” she said.
“You would just have to wonder why someone wasn’t prepared to say they had been to Shepparton when they were prepared to say they’d been to Kilmore and Benalla. It defies logic, doesn’t it?
“It sets us back as a community so much.”
From Wednesday, testing sites have opened at GV Health’s Acute Respiratory Clinic in Shepparton and at the showgrounds. More are expected to be set up.
Victoria also had five coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, taking the national toll past 900. They were a woman in her 70s and two in their 90s, as well as two men in their 80s.
The state has now had 816 virus deaths, while the national toll is 904.
Bairnsdale Secondary College in Victoria’s east also has a positive test.
The school posted on its Facebook page that it had been advised of a reported case. It said it did not have to close because the person did not enter the grounds while contagious.