Health authorities are investigating whether an illegal beach party is the source of the Central Coast Covid outbreak which has plunged the Newcastle and the Hunter region into lockdown.
Five new cases have been identified on the Central Coast, including two school students, as Sydney’s spiralling coronavirus crisis spreads north into regional towns.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said health authorities are conducting contact tracing but believe the origin of the infections was a party at a Central Coast beach.
‘We think the source originated from a gathering on blacksmith Beach on Friday night,’ Dr Chant told reporters on Thursday.
Lake Macquarie, the Hunter and the Central Coast have had next to no Covid cases but the Central Coast is in lockdown along with Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Illawarra.
As the virus moves north, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Thursday the Hunter region would enter a one-week lockdown.
It comes as NSW reported 262 new locally acquired Covid cases on Thursday, with at least 72 of those people circulating in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
Five people have also died – three in their 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s. None were fully vaccinated.
‘No one who has died has had both doses of vaccine. I cannot stress enough how it’s so important for everybody of all ages to come forward and get the vaccine,’ Ms Berejiklian said on Thursday.
Three cases were detected in two Hunter schools a day after Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned fragments of the virus had been found in the region’s wastewater system.
Lake Munmorah Public School is closed for cleaning after two students were detected with the virus. One student at Morisset High School has also tested positive.
‘All staff and students are asked to self-isolate until you receive further advice,’ Lake Munmorah Public School posted on social media.
The unions representing both NSW public and private school teachers are urging the NSW government to delay the return to school of Greater Sydney’s year 12 student on August 16.
The NSW Teachers Federation and the Independent Education Union of Australia joined forces on Thursday to resist the plan, saying it’s premature considering COVID-19 is still surging in Greater Sydney.
Since the end of June the highest number of COVID-19 infections (more than one quarter) had occurred among those aged 0-19 years, they said in a joint statement.
‘The situation in relation to COVID-19 and the Delta variant in NSW is clear. As the premier said, ‘things are only likely to get worse’,’ they said.
‘As teachers, we are determined to welcome students back to face-to-face learning as soon as possible, but this can only happen when it is safe to do so.’
On Wednesday Premier Gladys Berejiklian cast doubt on when year 12 students would return to school saying, ‘we will have more to say about that’.
There are currently 51 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with 24 ventilated.
Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least August 28 as health authorities battle to contain a outbreak of the virulent Delta strain.