News Coronavirus Melbourne’s COVID cluster grows, Sydney’s spreads and Victoria-NSW border slams shut

Melbourne’s COVID cluster grows, Sydney’s spreads and Victoria-NSW border slams shut

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Victorians are cramming testing sites as the state scrambles to get a grip on a coronavirus outbreak, which is believed to have spread down from New South Wales.

Victoria recorded five new cases in the 24 hours to December 31 8pm, to NSW’s three.

The Buffalo Smile Thai Restaurant outbreak has officially been declared a cluster, as the number of cases linked to that venue grows to 10.

Victorian testing manager Jeroen Weimar on Friday said all eight cases are connected, and three of the positive cases dined at the Black Rock restaurant.

“We now have two separate groups of people who are unknown to each other who were adjacent with each other in the restaurant,” Mr Weimar said.

A NSW returned traveller was also at that restaurant.
 Health Minister Martin Foley said genomic testing was underway to pinpoint the source of the cluster, but he expected it to have filtered down from NSW.

In NSW, health authorities have urged residents in western Sydney with even the mildest of symptoms to get tested.

On Friday afternoon, another venue was added to the alerts list – this time, in Woollongong.

The pleas come as the state finds yet another “missing link” in its outbreak, just as it solves another.

The health department is furiously trying to find out how three men with no links to the northern beaches hotspots have contracted the virus.

Meanwhile, the mystery source that sparked the Croydon cluster and two cases in Wollongong has now been linked to the Avalon cluster, with the connection between the cases revealed by genetic testing.

Victoria continues to urge its residents to get tested, with testing sites crammed full and forced to extend their opening hours, to cope with demand.

Border politics

A hard border slammed down at midnight on January 1, sealing NSW off from Victoria.

South Australia has done the same.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday criticised the border closures, saying it was a not the best use of resources.

“I think we’re better off asking the community to come forward to get tested, cutting off those chains of transmission, making sure everybody has enough information about venues and about COVID safe activities,” Ms Berejiklian said.

victoria south australia border
Border closures have been a marker of the pandemic, as each state tried to tame the virus. Photo: Getty

NSW previously sealed shut its border to Victorians from early July, until November 23.

Anyone who tries to enter Victoria – residents or visitors – from January 2, will be turned away or forced to undergo 14 days in hotel quarantine.

There were reports of wait times of up to six hours at the border on Friday, after the closure was announced at 3.30pm on Thursday.

The border closure derailed the federal government’s dream to have the entire country open – and staying open – by Christmas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said he understood people’s frustrations, but supported the decisions made by state leaders.

“As much as we would like there to be greater consistency across all of these things, we must respect their jurisdictional authority,” Mr Morrison said.

“They are ultimately responsible for what would happen in their state if there were to be an outbreak in their state.

“As prime minister, I do respect that.”

Mr Morrison has previously been vocal in his displeasure at border closures, especially criticising Western Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan for shutting off his state for the better part of 2020.

-with AAP