Nth beaches lockdown stretches into 2021

Hannah Ryan and Angelo Risso
·3-min read

A lockdown in Sydney's northern beaches will be extended into the new year after a COVID-19 cluster associated with the area grew to 126.

Plans to thank NSW's frontline coronavirus workers by giving them a bird's eye view of Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks, meanwhile, have been dumped.

NSW recorded another five local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, at least four of which are connected to the Avalon cluster. An additional nine cases were uncovered in hotel quarantine.

NSW Health on Monday also announced the state's 56th COVID-related death - a man in his 70s who contracted the virus in March but recently tested negative. He died earlier this week from respiratory complications.

It's the first COVID-related death in NSW since September 19.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday told reporters the stay-at-home orders applying to northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge will continue until at least January 9. The lockdown for the peninsula's southern zone will be in place until at least January 2.

However a brief reprieve for small indoor gatherings on the northern beaches on NYE and New Year's Day has been permitted.

Ms Berejiklian thanked residents for their patience but said health authorities did not yet know enough about the origins of the cluster.

"Whilst we're seeing the trends go the way we hope they do, there are still too many concerning aspects ... of not really being able to identify what we call the intermediaries, those unlinked cases," Ms Berejiklian said.

Restrictions for greater Sydney and regional NSW will remain largely unchanged around NYE but outdoor gatherings in greater Sydney have been tightened to a maximum of 50 people, down from 100.

While four of Monday's five reported cases were linked to the Avalon cluster, the fifth is linked to a previously-reported case on the northern beaches whose source of infection remains under investigation.

Three cases connected to the Belrose Hotel continue to mystify authorities.

A 20-year-old hotel worker, a firefighter patron and a drive-through bottle shop customer all had the virus in December but there is no established link between the pub and the Avalon cluster at this point.

The changes to congregating outdoors for greater Sydney come after several large Christmas gatherings were reported, including a large North Bondi house party and unauthorised parties at Bronte and Centennial Park.

A Newtown restaurant was fined $5000 after police attended on December 23 and learned the owner did not have a COVID-safe plan.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard condemned the rule-breakers on Monday and warned revellers to adhere to rules in the lead-up to NYE.

NSW on Monday also cancelled its plan to host frontline COVID-19 workers on the Sydney foreshore for the shortened NYE fireworks on Thursday night.

"It's too much of a health risk having people from the regions and from Sydney ... congregate all in the CBD," Ms Berejiklian said.

Ms Berejiklian promised the government would find another opportunity during 2021 to recognise the actions of frontline workers during the pandemic.

She said there should be no NYE crowds on Sydney's foreshore whatsoever but booked restaurant or hospitality plans in the CBD could go ahead.

Hospitality venues will require a permit to operate on NYE.

A special pass will also be required for people to enter designated zones around Circular Quay, North Sydney and the CBD.