NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called a crisis cabinet meeting for Tuesday afternoon to review Sydney’s virus restrictions amid the worrying Northern Beaches outbreak.
The cluster grew by seven infections to 90 on Tuesday, with health authorities continuing to issue alerts for venues across Sydney.
The latest cases came as NSW counted down its final crucial hours before authorities must decide if they will wind back virus rules for the Christmas period, or if tougher rules imposed as the outbreak emerged should continue.
“We’d consider mental health issues, we need to consider what people are going through as part of that decision as well as what it means for eight million citizens across the state,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“If it wasn’t this time of the year, the decision would be much easier.”
But she said the downward trend of new infections in the Northern Beaches cluster was good. Tuesday’s figures came after the outbreak grew by 15 on Monday, and by 30 on Sunday.
“The trend is going where we want it to go, where we need to it to go … it’s volatile but we’re confident that the strategy we’ve put in place is having the desired effect,” she said on Tuesday.
She said the low case numbers combined with recent record testing across NSW had given authorities confidence.
The current quasi-lockdown of 250,000 people across Sydney’s Northern Beaches is due to end at midnight Wednesday.
Ms Berejiklian said the cabinet would review the lockdown orders when it met on Tuesday. But a final decision will not be made until Wednesday morning – giving authorities another day of infection numbers.
“Whilst the vast majority of cases are linked to two events on the Northern Beaches, we know there’s more venues out there and what risk does that pose,” she said.
“As I’ve said previously, we’ll be looking to make a decision tomorrow based on what we know and understand during the day.”
However, she said everyone in NSW should be “treating the situation as though you are living on the Northern Beaches”.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said testing rates had lifted throughout greater Sydney, with a massive surge on the Northern Beaches. A record 35,000 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, was topped by another record of more than 40,000 in the following 24-hour period.
NSW Health also issued new alerts on Tuesday for Sydney venues visited by people infected with the virus. They are mostly on the northern beaches but also include Paddington’s Alimentari deli and Bodyfit Gym in Blacktown.
A Victorian teenager who travelled from the northern beaches to Melbourne and was then diagnosed with COVID-19 also stopped at a cafe in Gundagai in southern NSW.
Oliver’s Real Food, at 31 Annie Pyers Drive, Gundagai, was also added to the list of NSW Health alerts on Tuesday.
Also in regional NSW, testing is being boosted in Orange after potential virus exposure there.
A nurse who is involved in transporting people in hotel quarantine was diagnosed with the virus on Monday, sparking fears of another leak of the virus from the program. She is the other case community case reported on Tuesday.
One of the nurse’s household contacts (who will be included in Wednesday’s numbers) visited Orange Health Service and Orange Central Square Shopping Centre on December 19.
- See the latest NSW Health venue alerts here
Dr Chant said “many thousands” of people across NSW were self-isolating, and would continue to do so over the festive period.
Greater Sydney residents are blocked from all interstate travel, while some states have also blocked Central Coast or Illawarra-Shoalhaven residents.
Queensland has reimposed NSW border checkpoints after some Sydneysiders attempted to enter the state illegally.
Ms Berejiklian said her counterparts’ reaction to the Sydney cluster were excessive.
“There’s an element of holding your nerve … if you have confidence in your processes and your strategy, you also take that into account,” she said.
“We assess the risk well and make decisions according to that, unlike some state colleagues who have taken what I think are overreaching actions given what’s happened in NSW … that’s a matter for them.”
She also again urged other premiers and chief ministers to consider “compassionate grounds” when closing borders in the lead-up to Christmas.
From Tuesday, NSW began requiring international air crew personnel to go into police-supervised hotel quarantine.