There are unconfirmed reports another NSW region will go into a snap lockdown on Wednesday, after a confirmed case of the coronavirus at Dubbo West Public School in the state’s central west.
The Department of Education was advised of the case by NSW Health late on Tuesday.
The school has been closed, while staff and students have been asked to isolate and get tested if they have symptoms.
About 38,000 people living in Dubbo and surrounding areas are on high alert and have been urged to get tested and limit their movements after authorities found fragments of the virus in Dubbo and nearby Mudgee at the weekend.
Sydney radio 2GB reported on Wednesday that the regional city would begin a snap seven-day lockdown at 1pm. The reports are yet to be confirmed by NSW Health.
Local MP Dugald Saunders announced on Facebook late on Tuesday that the infected person was isolating after becoming symptomatic on Monday and being tested on Tuesday.
“Nine close contacts who have been identified to date, are in isolation, and either have been tested, or will be tested as soon as possible,” he said.
The spread comes as the virus seeps into other NSW regions, with snap lockdowns in the Hunter, Byron Bay, Armidale and Tamworth.
Mr Saunders said it was not yet known how transmission occurred.
However, media are reporting possible links to two schools – Dubbo West Public School and Macquarie Anglican Grammar School – where students and staff have been asked to self-isolate.
Fragments of COVID-19 were detected in Dubbo sewage samples taken on August 3 and 5.
Mr Saunders urged Dubbo residents to limit their movements and get tested.
“Anyone in Dubbo who is currently experiencing even mild cold-like symptoms is asked to come forward immediately for testing,” he said.
“Other concerned residents, and people who may have recently experienced cold-like symptoms are also urged to be tested.”
Mr Saunders said the local health district was increasing testing capacity at the drive-through clinic at the Dubbo Showground, opening at 8am Wednesday.
The COVID SAFE clinic at the Manera Plaza, 77 Myall Street, had undergone intensive cleaning and would operate as normal from 8am-4.30pm, seven days a week.
However, he said testing was not available at Dubbo Base Hospital. This service was relocated to the COVID SAFE clinic.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian highlighted compliance with health orders was crucial to prevent further spread in the state after a Sydney man travelled to Byron Bay against rules, sending the northern rivers region into lockdown.
Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys said a strong police presence was assisting after 17 people were caught travelling without a legitimate excuse over a 24-hour period.
Mishandling of ‘superspreader party
NSW’s chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant has admitted authorities missed an opportunity to contain a ‘super-spreader’ party in western Sydney that sparked the current lockdown.
The party in West Hoxton in June was attended by 30 people, but the NSW government was initially unaware of the extent of the Delta outbreak that stemmed from the gathering.
The revelations came at an inquiry on Tuesday into the state government’s handling of the current outbreak, which ballooned to 356 daily cases on Tuesday, with four deaths.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Dr Chant were questioned, with Mr Hazzard disputing suggestions the government failed to heed health advice regarding the “moving feast” that was the Delta outbreak.
He said the initial response had been done “very well and very quickly”.
Mr Hazzard repeatedly reminded the committee that he and Dr Chant had volunteered to appear and were not obliged to answer any questions.
“It would be the first time in history that in the middle of a war, a parliamentary committee called an inquiry to ask us how did you make your decisions,” he said.
It emerged that there were “issues” around containing the ‘super-spreader party’ that was the catalyst for locking down greater Sydney.
Among those who attended was a man linked to the Bondi cluster and 27 of the guests became infected and spread the virus further.
“It was unknown at the time that there wasn’t containment of the West Hoxton Park party … there is concern that there was leakage at that point that was not recognised at the time,” Dr Chant said.
“The outbreak was actually brought under control in south-eastern Sydney … when it got introduced into south-western Sydney [and] that’s when we saw the main case numbers. And I think to be fair, it needed a different response in south-western Sydney.
“With the benefit of hindsight, there were different decisions that could be made.”
Greens MP David Shoebridge asked why this was the case.
“The initial intelligence was the West Hoxton party was effectively controlled, everyone immediately contacted within the timeframe,” Dr Chant said.
“There were subsequent emerging issues associated with that and I’d be happy to reflect on the thinking at that particular time.”
Mr Shoebridge said the NSW government was less transparent than Victoria after Premier Daniel Andrews was available “for the better part of a day” at one of that state’s inquiries.
Victoria in limbo
A fresh COVID-19 case has been connected to a Melbourne paediatric specialist clinic, with urgent investigations under way into the doctor’s movements.
“Following the notification of a confirmed case, the Department of Health is investigating a potential exposure at private medical rooms at 48 Flemington Rd, Melbourne on Monday 9 August,” the department said on Tuesday night.
The department said it was reviewing the doctor’s movements and their likely infectious period.
It is not yet known if the case is one of the 20 reported in Victoria on Tuesday or a new infection.
“Precautionary public health actions are in place while this investigation is underway,” the statement said.
Melbourne Paediatric Specialists’ clinic is at 48 Flemington Road, Parkville, and is part of a commercial precinct adjacent to the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Earlier, authorities refused to rule out extending Melbourne’s lockdown, which is due to end on Thursday night. Health Minister Martin Foley would say only that decisions were being made on an “hour-by-hour basis”.
“I don’t know what the future brings. The crystal ball hasn’t fired up lately,” he said.
“As soon as that decision is made we will be sharing it with all Victorians.”
There are more than 12,000 close contacts of infected cases self-isolating and almost 250 exposure sites across Melbourne.
Of greatest concern to authorities is Caroline Springs Square Shopping Centre, where half of Tuesday’s new cases contracted the virus.
COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said 25 cases were linked to the shopping centre and he urged anyone who had attended between July 27-August 5 to get tested.
Late on Tuesday, anyone who had worked at CS Square from August 2-5 was told to get tested and isolate for 14 days.
Decision day for North Queensland
The tourist city of Cairns is braced for a decision on whether its three-day lockdown will end as planned on Wednesday afternoon.
Cairns and the neighbouring Aboriginal community of Yarrabah were ordered into the three-day lockdown at 4pm on Sunday after a taxi driver spent 10 days in the community while he was infectious.
On seven of those days he was behind the wheel of his cab, driving passengers around the city. He was not vaccinated.
Residents have flocked to testing centres since news of the case broke on Sunday.
Wednesday’s figures will be the third set of results since then, and chief health officer Jeannette Young will rely on them as she decides if the lockdown can end as planned at 4pm.
Meanwhile, Dr Young will be hoping for another day of few new cases in Queensland’s south-east.
On Tuesday there were just three new local cases, all linked to the Indooroopilly cluster and all in isolation throughout their infectious periods.