Gladys Berejiklian has revealed a host of Christmas restrictions for Greater Sydney as New South Wales recorded eight new local cases of Covid-19 with seven linked to the Northern Beaches cluster.
Greater Sydney residents will be allowed to mix with 10 people plus children under 12 on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. From 27 December the number will go back to 10 including children.
The Northern Beaches is being split into two sections at the Narrabeen Bridge, with those in the northern section still under lockdown.
They are not allowed to leave or welcome outsiders but will be allowed to mingle in a maximum group of five on the 24, 25 and 26 of December. From 27 December lockdown rules banning leaving home will be re-introduced.
Those in the southern section cannot leave the area but can welcome a maximum of 10 people into their homes, including people from anywhere in NSW for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
The government has not yet decided if residents south of the Narrabeen Bridge will go back into lockdown on 27 December.
Residents are seen exercising on Manly beachfront on Wednesday, their final day of lockdown before Christmas
Surfers made the most a quiet Manly Beach on Wednesday morning. Residents were placed on lockdown with unlimited exercise allowed
Crowds gather for last minute shopping before Christmas at the Sydney Fish Market on Wednesday
Some 42,000 people got tested on Tuesday, the second highest number ever for the state after 44,000 on Monday.
The premier had a three-hour ‘crisis meeting’ with health bosses and police chiefs to discuss which restrictions to impose on five million residents of Australia’s biggest city.
Sydney’s latest outbreak, which emerged last Wednesday, is centred on Avalon in the Northern Beaches but has spread beyond the area with transmission at a workplace in the CBD and hundreds of venues on high alert after being visited by positive cases.
About 270,000 Northern Beaches residents were ordered to stay home for five days from Saturday as the government rushed to contain the cluster caused by a US strain of Covid-19 which somehow escaped from hotel quarantine.
The measure appeared to work with New South Wales recording just eight new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday. Seven cases were linked to the cluster and the other was a healthcare worker from Western Sydney who had transported returned travellers to hotel quarantine.
Manly beach was almost deserted on Wednesday morning as the Northern Beaches area endured its final day of lockdown before Christmas
Sydney’s latest outbreak, which emerged last Wednesday, is centred on Avalon in the Northern Beaches. Pictured: Manly Beach at sunrise on Thursday
Staff at work before Christmas at the Sydney Fish Market on Wednesday as residents stocked up on food before the big day
How has the virus escalated in Sydney?
17 December: Three cases
18 December: 15 cases
19 December: 23 cases
20 December: 30 cases
21 December: 15 cases
22 December: Eight cases
23 December: Eight cases
Total: 101 cases with 98 linked to Avalon cluster
A close workplace contact of the healthcare worker tested positive after 8pm on Tuesday, meaning that case was included in Wednesday’s figures.
The close contact travelled through Orange, 300km west of Sydney, on December 19 while infectious – putting the country town on high alert.
The woman visited the busy Orange Central Square Shopping Centre on Saturday between 4.05pm and 4.15pm.
Anyone who was there during this time is considered a ‘casual contact’ and is urged to get tested immediately and monitor for symptoms.
‘The person did not enter any stores or come into close contact with any individual during this time period,’ NSW Health said.
The woman also attended Orange Health Service. Everyone who was there at that time has been contacted by Health NSW and is now in self-isolation. None of them have returned positive tests.
A record 44,466 people got tested in NSW on Monday, beating Sunday’s record of 38,578 as residents responded to the call to get swabbed if they notice any symptoms.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the virus has been spreading outside the Northern Beaches and has updated a list of venues that have been attended by positive cases including the Rose of Australia in Erskineville, Elementary Cafe in Paddington and BodyFit gym in Blacktown.
‘We are concerned about transmission events occurring outside the Northern Beaches because residents in those areas are not subject to the same lockdown provisions as in the Northern Beaches,’ she said.
A 15-year-old girl from Moonee Valley, Melbourne has tested positive in Victoria after she visited several of the high-risk exposure sites in Sydney, including the Avalon RSL and Avalon Bowlo, while on a trip to visit relatives.
The girl drove home from Sydney with her mother and then isolated before getting a test. They stopped once at Oliver’s Real Food Outlet in Gundagai, New South Wales. The mother is negative for Covid-19 and other family members are being tested.
On Sunday 20 December Victoria decided to shut its border with New South Wales after Sydney recorded just 30 Covid-19 cases, with all linked to one cluster. By contrast, New South Wales did not decide to close its border to Victoria until the state recorded 127 new local cases on 6 July, with many of them mystery cases. As only eight new cases were reported on Tuesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said other leaders had lost their nerve, sacrificed their economies and ruined Christmas for millions by shutting the borders so early. She also said it showed they did not trust their tracing systems
On Sunday Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory all banned free movement for Greater Sydney residents while Western Australia blocked out all of NSW.
As only eight new cases were reported on Tuesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said other leaders had lost their nerve and sacrificed their economies by shutting the borders so early.
‘You have to assess the medical risk against the risk of other things which will harm the community. So we take all of that into consideration in New South Wales,’ she said.
‘That’s why we waited until Victoria had consistently, 120, 140, 180 cases a day before we closed our bored into Victoria. That was a big step we took. There’s an element of holding your nerve.’
She said the fact that other states shut their borders so fast suggests they don’t have confidence in their testing and tracing systems.
‘If you have confidence in your processes and the strategy, you also take that into account,’ she said.
‘I hope people appreciate in New South Wales we try and look at the big picture, we try and be compassionate as well as assessing the health risk and also the impacts on people’s livelihoods and the mental health issues.
‘We try and take a collective approach and we also make sure that the decisions we take consider the eight million people in the state and not just particular groupings in one place or another.’
An almost deserted Avalon Beach on Tuesday. The area is normally crowded with Christmas and summer holidaymakers