NSW has posted its 11th day without community transmission of the coronavirus as streamlined alfresco dining to start next week.
There was, however, a spike in cases in returned international travellers in hotel quarantine, with 11 more infections confirmed on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s results come from 5385 COVID tests. That’s up from 4789 on Monday, but state health authorities say the recent run of low numbers is “still a concern”.
They have urged NSW residents to get tested if they have even the mildest of respiratory symptoms. There was a particular warning for people in the Hawkesbury and south-western Sydney regions after the state’s sewage surveillance program detected fragments of the virus at the North Richmond and West Camden treatment plants.
“The most recent cases in the West Camden catchment were reported in September, but no one living in the North Richmond catchment has recently tested positive for COVID-19,” NSW Health said in a statement.
“Virus fragments in sewage can mean that there are active cases in the catchment area, but people can continue to ‘shed’ virus genetic material for some weeks after recovery.”
Meanwhile, streamlined procedures to encourage more COVID-safe outdoor dining in NSW will start being rolled out next week.
Sydney’s The Rocks district will be the first area to open up to more alfresco drinking and dining from October 16, followed by the CBD from November 1 for a 12-month pilot program allowing quicker approval times for venues.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said red tape had been cut to fast-track approvals.
“We’re working with City of Sydney and Place Management NSW, the landowner for The Rocks, to condense what was previously a three-month process involving multiple agencies, into a single application that takes a week,” he said.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes said cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels would be able to apply for an outdoor dining licence without needing to get a planning approval.
Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock said councils across the state were being encouraged to examine how they could fast-track outdoor dining area approvals while ensuring public safety.
“We’re exploring introducing further changes so that all councils can take advantage of the new arrangements and implement similar streamlined processes in time for summer,” she said.
NSW Health is treating 50 coronavirus patients, including three in intensive care.