'Explosive': Fears as Sydney Covid cluster spreads to suburb 60km away

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·News Reporter
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The Northern Beaches coronavirus outbreak has spread more than 60km across Sydney as the city’s five million people are placed on high alert.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the cluster had jumped to 28 cases with 10 new cases on Friday, with some of those living outside of the Northern Beaches area.

“There’s potential seeding outside of Avalon and outside of the Northern Beaches and this is what we need to prevent,” she warned.

Cronulla RSL says it was visited by a positive case on Wednesday. Source: Google Maps
Cronulla RSL says it was visited by a positive case on Wednesday. Source: Google Maps

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed the virus had spread to Cronulla in Sydney’s southeast.

“You can see how explosive this can be,” she told reporters.

Two of the 10 cases are from the area, with the Cronulla RSL confirming on its Facebook they had been visited by a positive case on Wednesday.

The strain of virus has been confirmed as an international one from the US however authorities continue to search for its source.

Anyone who attended Penrith RSL on Sunday between 1pm and 6pm is also requested to isolate and get tested, with the outbreak’s reach spanning a further 90km west.

Dr Chant said she was anxious after contact tracers had failed to detect the direct transmission route meaning they hadn’t identified every transmission line.

“At this point, we don't know how the spread occurred so there is some missing people there. Those missing people, whether one, two, that could have set up other chains of transmission,” she said.

She urged everyone across Sydney to come forward for testing. There were 7,531 tests across the state in the previous 24-hour reporting period however Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Thursday he wanted at least 15,000 a day.

The cluster has also spread to Queensland after a 50-year-old woman caught a Virgin flight interstate on Wednesday.

The Northern Beaches has entered a quasi-lockdown, with NSW Health asking residents to stay home and not leave the area for the next three days. Aged care facilities in the area have shut to visitors.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday implored northern beaches residents to only leave home for essential reasons.

Experts are calling for the Northern Beaches to be shut off from the rest of Sydney. Source:
Some experts are calling for the Northern Beaches to be shut off from the rest of Sydney. Source: AAP

Health authorities on Thursday night used genomic sequencing to connect the cluster to a US strain of the virus, which may have entered NSW in early December in a returned traveller.

That traveller has never left the hotel quarantine system, meaning the connection between that case and the northern beaches remains unclear.

"If we get on top of this in the next two or three days, all of us will be able to have a much better Christmas, but if we don't, it could mean further restrictions down the track," Ms Berejiklian said.

Two seeding events fuelling outbreak

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed to reporters on Friday that a major COVID-19 seeding event had occurred at Avalon RSL on December 11, followed by a similarly significant seeding event at Avalon Bowlo on December 13.

Of the 28-strong cluster, eight people in the cluster were in attendance at Avalon RSL, 16 were at Avalon Bowlo and two were at both. The final two cases were also connected to those venues.

Ms Berejiklian said that from Tuesday all international air crew arriving in Sydney would be held at two quarantine hotels until their flight back out of the country, typically within 72 hours.

Ms Berejiklian admitted airlines were currently in charge of ensuring air crew quarantine compliance, but NSW Police would from Tuesday take over.

"The issue is not the guidelines we have in place, it is unfortunately a few occasions where people breached the guidelines or actually chose not to self-isolate when they should have," Ms Berejiklian said.

With AAP

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