NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned of tough new coronavirus restrictions for Greater Sydney as the city’s cases increased by 10 overnight.
An outbreak — predominantly spreading in Sydney’s northern beaches and prompting Ms Berejiklian to issue a localised ‘stay at home’ warning — has now grown to 28 cases.
The advice which came into effect for the area of 250,000 people yesterday is imploring residents to stay in their homes for all but essential reasons.
As it stands, it is not a proper lockdown, with people being asked to stay home, rather than it being mandated.
However, if cases continue to grow it is anticipated that there may be more widespread restrictions or mandated lockdown measures in some areas.
In her press conference, Ms Berejiklian said that she hoped it would “not come to that” and there were positive signs — but that the next 24-48 hours were crucial in avoiding that outcome.
She said authorities will take greater measures in and around the northern beaches community and perhaps even through Greater Sydney “if we feel that risk is there”.
“We don’t want to go down the mandatory path but we will if we have to but at this stage, let’s see how the next 24-48 hours goes,” she said.
“I will not hesitate to take on health advice if (NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant) and her team give us advice to the alternative this stage we believe what we have in place is commensurate or matches what the risk is.”
Epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman said it appears authorities in NSW are backing their contact tracers to get on top of the outbreak — as they have in the past — without having to resort of strict lockdown measures.
He told news.com.au NSW contact tracers would have to be chasing up roughly 3000 people this week as a result of the 28 infections, which is manageable given the state has more than 300 contact tracers.
However, he said that once new daily cases exceed 50 mark, it starts to become difficult to keep up and that authorities may need to reconsider their options.
He said Sydney could kill off the virus with a tough 3-4 day total lockdown, but said they probably weren’t willing to do that because their approach has been working.
“These things happen. A spike of 17 cases isn’t unusual and they believe they can manage it — and to be honest it’s an approach that has worked in the past so it’s fair enough,” he told news.com.au.
The downside he said is that NSW’s approach may create a disconnect with the rest of the nation where the virus has eliminated — leading to frustrating travel restrictions for Sydneysiders.
She said she didn’t want to be in a position just before Christmas to undo restriction-easing measures she put in place a couple of weeks ago.
“So we don’t want to do that unless we absolutely have to do but I cannot rule that out until we know what the next 24-48 hours looks like but I do want to thank the community for responding so favourably,” she said.
“I know from the testing regime overnight but also from the behaviour of people today, especially in Avalon and the northern beaches, the people are taking our advice and they are listening to the health messages but if we don’t feel that is enough and we feel the number of cases is going up to an extent we are not comfortable with, we will take greater measures in and around the northern beaches community and perhaps even through Greater Sydney if we feel that risk is there.”
Professor Esterman said that the localised ‘lockdown’ approach in effect now “might work” if the cluster stayed localised to the northern beaches.
However, the virus how now spread further afield. This morning it was confirmed that a popular RSL club in Sydney’s south has been closed after confirming a positive coronavirus case visited the venue earlier this week.
Cronulla RSL in the heart of the Shire announced on its Facebook page on Friday morning that a positive case visited the club on Wednesday.
Authorities are urging residents across the state to show extreme caution.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard described the outbreak as the result of “an avalanche of complacency”.
“We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic … the Avalon cluster has served as very timely reminder that there is no room for complacency,” he said.
NSW Health said there are now 28 cases associated with the Avalon cluster, with 25 are linked to either the Avalon RSL, the Avalon Bowlo, or both.
The links of two cases are under urgent investigation, and one case linked to the Avalon cluster has been reported in a NSW resident whose COVID-19 infection was diagnosed in Queensland. This case is reported as part of the Queensland numbers.
NSW recorded 15 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, plus one case in a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.
This brings the total number of cases in NSW to 4493 since the beginning of the pandemic.