New South Wales could be heading for a second coronavirus wave if the rapidly growing outbreak stemming from Sydney’s Crossroads Hotel isn’t quashed, according to an expert.
The state’s Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed on Monday 21 people had been linked to the pub in Sydney’s southwestern suburb of Casula – 10 people who visited the establishment and 11 of their close contacts.
The news came after Victoria recorded a daily total of 177 new cases, dropping below 200 for the first time in four days.
While experts said there was no doubt Victoria was in the grips of a second wave, the next few days would be telling for NSW, Dr Catherine Bennett, who is chair in epidemiology for Deakin University, told Yahoo News Australia.
“If the close contacts of the 11 positive secondary cases are identified, not symptomatic and all cleared through testing over the next couple of days, this can be contained,” she said.
“The risk is if any of the contacts of these 10 cases turn out to have been in super spreader environments whilst infectious, like in Melbourne. If so, this may already be spreading more widely.”
Dr Bennett said that could lead to regional or city-wide lockdowns “if it gets away from the health department”.
Getting tested early, maintaining good hygiene and social distancing will prevent another wave, she said.
Dr Ian Mackay, a virologist and associate professor with The University of Queensland, told Yahoo News Australia some would consider Victoria’s increasing cases as its first coronavirus wave.
“It’s predominantly infections due to community spread, not travel-related imports as occurred initially. We lack a clear agreed upon definition,” he said.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters on Monday “it may not be our peak yet”.
“So I would like to see a week of decreasing numbers before I come and say I have greater confidence about the direction we’re going in,” he said.
Police investigate Crossroads Hotel cluster
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Scott Cook told ABC the pub was being investigated amid claims the establishment ignored coronavirus protocols.
"That is a concern but that will be part of the [investigation] and if people have information they should contact police or Crime Stoppers," he said.
AAP has spoken to multiple patrons who attended during the period of concern who said they were not asked to write down their contact details at any point during their visit.
All were "walk-ins", as people who made reservations gave their details at the time of booking.
"I was there on the Sunday night (July 5) about 5pm (and) there was no login. I walked straight in, ordered a meal, sat down and left," one patron said.
"It was like walking into a pub pre-COVID," another patron said.
Chelsea Sarkis said her details were taken when she made a reservation, but she was surprised at the number of people at the venue on July 4.
"The first thing we thought was there were 'way too many people here', we continued our night, took precautions, kept our distance," she said.
Staff at the pub have rejected the claims, saying each table had pens and paper and management had drilled into them that they must ensure restrictions were followed and the 362-person capacity wasn't exceeded.
A bartender, who asked not to be identified as they were not authorised to talk to media, said police walked through the premises on July 3 and 4 without issue.
"(The) problem is some people didn't fill them out even when they were on the table and staff wouldn't find out until they left," the bartender said.
"Some people refused and said they didn't want to due to privacy reasons, they were told to fill it out or leave and some people just filled out fake documents."
Jason Marlow, whose Marlow Hotel Management Group owns Crossroads Hotel, said the pub had "always followed the COVID-19 management plan including social distancing measures, staff training and a strict cleaning regime".
"More than 80 per cent of people coming to the hotel for food and beverage have already pre-booked using our booking app," he said in a statement.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.