New Sydney cluster identified as Covid cases surge and NYE rules tighten

NSW has announced 18 new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Wednesday, prompting stricter restrictions for Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Households in Greater Sydney are now limited to having no more than five people visit their homes until further notice as cases skyrocketed just one day out from the turn of the year.

Nine of the new cases are linked to the Avalon cluster which has now risen to 138 cases.

Five cases are linked to an inner-west case reported to the media on Tuesday, which is being labelled the Croydon cluster, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

All six, which are from the same extended family across three households, are included in Wednesday’s numbers.

The cases are three adults and three children.

Gladys Berejiklian has warned the threat is far from over as new cases are detected without a link to the cluster.
Gladys Berejiklian has warned the threat is far from over as new cases are detected without a link to the cluster.

"We've seen a proliferation of cases outside the northern beaches overnight,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Wednesday.

“In particular, the Croydon cluster is of concern because there are no direct links at this stage.”

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said no link to the Northern Beaches cluster has occurred after “24 hours of really intensive investigations”.

She said there will likely be further cases linked to the cluster as the family attended multiple social events.

Thirty-four close contacts of the family have been identified so far.

Following the surge in cases, Dr Chant said it was clear the current situation should not be viewed as simply a Northern Beaches issue.

“We are concerned there might be unrecognised spread,” she said.

Wednesday’s cases were the highest daily number of local cases since December 20 when 30 cases were confirmed.

There were just three local cases announced on Tuesday, with Wednesday’s number ending an eight-day streak of single-digit daily local cases.

Amended restrictions heading into NYE

Outdoor gatherings for Greater Sydney have also been reduced to 30 from 50.

The same rule, including the five-person indoor rule, applies to the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong areas.

The southern zone of the Northern Beaches will now only be allowed five visitors to the home while outdoor gatherings stand at 10. Outdoor gatherings in the northern zone are capped at five.

The changes will come into effect at midnight Wednesday.

"Our preferred advice is that people just stay home for New Year's Eve,” Ms Berejiklian said.

There were almost 17,000 tests processed in the previous 24 hours however Dr Chant stressed once again that number needs to be far greater.

Wollongong cases grow

Two cases 120km south of the Northern Beaches cluster in Wollongong without a known source is also causing concern for health authorities.

Residents in the city have responded to a call for testing, with lengthy queues up to six hours witnessed on Tuesday, and similar scenes on Wednesday morning.

One of the Wollongong cases was reported to the media on Tuesday. Both are from the same household.

There is a further case identified in the Northern Beaches which is so far not linked to the Avalon cluster. It again was reported on Tuesday.

New locations added to list of visited venues

NSW Health added two locations which require immediate isolation if somebody visited them on December 17.

Anyone who was inside Buckley’s between 7.30pm and 9pm on the Opera House Promenade should be tested immediately.

And anyone at the Open Air Cinema’s screening of Prom at Lady Macquarie’s Chair must also.

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