Coronavirus NSW: Premier's urgent Christmas warning as outbreak grows

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·4-min read

A coronavirus outbreak in Sydney’s Northern Beaches has grown overnight with an additional two cases.

There are now four cases confirmed in the area, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealing one of the new cases is from Frenchs Forest.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the other case was from near the northern tip of the Northern Beaches peninsula.

They are a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s.

Ms Berejiklian urged residents in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to come forward for testing as health authorities scramble to stop the spread of coronavirus after two positive cases were announced on Wednesday.

Lengthy queues have formed at Mona Vale this morning. Source: ABC
Lengthy queues have formed at Mona Vale this morning. Source: ABC

“We want to get on top of this and don't want this concerning us in the last few days before Christmas and urging everyone to be as vigilant as ever,” she told reporters on Thursday morning.

Mr Hazzard said he would like to see more than 15,000 tests a day moving forward.

Ms Berejiklian confirmed several aged care homes were to temporarily banning visitors until the source of the infection was determined.

Long queues at testing centres

Lengthy queues continue to grow at a coronavirus testing centres in the region as the community responds to calls for increased testing.

Concerned residents rushed to a Mona Vale testing clinic on Thursday morning after NSW Health revealed two of three confirmed cases announced on Wednesday had visited multiple venues in and around Avalon since Sunday.

The queues have become so large, staff members have told some attendees they face a wait of more than two hours while advising them to seek testing elsewhere, the ABC reported.

The two cases on Wednesday came hours after the confirmation of a case from southwest Sydney with the three cases the first since December 3 when a hotel quarantine cleaner tested positive.

The state had recorded a 26-day streak prior to her infection without a locally acquired case.

A 45-year-old airport shuttle bus driver was confirmed positive by Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Wednesday morning.

The Northern Beaches pair, a woman in her 60s and a man in his 70s, are close contacts. Mr Hazzard refused to comment on media reports they failed to isolate after taking their COVID-19 tests.

Contact tracers are now desperately working to curtail the spread of the virus with all five cases under investigation.

The male bus driver’s household contacts, as well as work colleagues, have returned negative COVID-19 test results.

Australia will remain vulnerable until vaccine, expert warns

In the wake of the outbreak, epidemiologist Professor Raina MacIntyre, who is Head of Biosecurity Program at the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, said the nation will remain at threat until a vaccine is rolled out to about 70 per cent of the population.

“We will remain vulnerable to outbreaks until we can vaccinate enough of the Australian population to achieve herd immunity,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“Until that time, we will live with that risk and with a level of restrictions and an impediment to complete economic recovery.”

Minister to consider tightening restrictions for air crew

Mr Hazzard said on Wednesday the state will consider tightening the restrictions placed on air crew arriving in Australia after it was revealed they are not forced into hotel quarantine on arrival. Crew must currently self-isolate however are given more freedom than returned travellers.

World Health Organisation advisor from UNSW, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws told ABC News Breakfast it was “one of the most concerning elements” of the the 45-year-old male’s infection.

While the source of the driver’s infection has not been confirmed, it is believed to have been acquired from crew. There is no suggestion he or any air crew have breached protocols.

“There really needs to be a tightening up of testing of everybody coming in, not just the travellers, but everybody with a rapid point of care test,” Prof McLaws advised.

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