A Professor at the Australian National University (ANU) has shared an alarming map showing the potential coronavirus exposure sites around NSW to begin the weekend.
It comes as the NSW government mandated masks in Sydney, making them compulsory from midnight Saturday for those in shopping centres, on public transport, in places of worship, hair and beauty premises and entertainment venues such as a cinema in Greater Sydney areas – including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains.
However eyebrows have been raised with the New Year cricket Test to still go ahead, attracting at least 20,000 fans to the SCG, even if it’s only at 50 per cent capacity.
“Here are the potential exposure sites in Sydney today. And they are letting a five day cricket match go ahead without requiring masks. Personally, I am staying home as much as possible for the next two weeks,” ANU Professor Inger Mewburn tweeted along with a a zoomed in shot of Google Maps NSW contact tracing locations.
Alert symbols currently dominate the map for venues identified as being visited by close contacts or casual contacts, requiring those who were also at the venues at the same time to get tested immediately and self-isolate.
At Saturday’s press briefing Premier Gladys Berejiklian gave a strong indication the cricket match beginning on January 7 would allow a live audience but stopped short of committing to any further details.
“We appreciate what people might say about us continuing to hold those events, but also consider the thousands of jobs it keeps, consider the sense of normality it gives us,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Today NSW Health will be going through the venue with the organisers and with police to make sure that that event is as safe as possible but this is an example where the NSW Government strategy is to keep jobs, to keep community morale and well-being while making sure we are Covid-safe.”
Mandatory masks to keep businesses open
NSW recorded seven new community cases on Saturday and after previously opposing the idea, Ms Berejiklian announced face masks would be mandatory for many indoor settings, stating the change of heart balanced the health risk and security of citizens but allowed businesses to continue operating.
"What we want to do is make sure we're not in a situation where we are restricting people's ability to go about their business," she said on Saturday.
"In fact, we want to increase economic activity, not diminish economic activity, and mask-wearing in these settings will ensure we have the confidence to do that."
The change was commended by the Australian Medical Association, which has been calling for mandatory mask wearing since the start of the northern beaches outbreak.
States shut borders to NSW, VIC travellers
The ACT has shut out NSW residents from the northern beaches, greater Sydney, the central coast and Wollongong, unless they have an exemption.
Those found entering without permission could be fined up to $8000.
ACT residents staying in NSW can still return home but need to notify the territory's health department of their plans via an online form and then quarantine for 14 days.
Tasmania has barred anyone directly linked to the latest Victorian virus cases, announcing on Saturday that its border was shut to anyone linked to one of nine sites where confirmed cases are known to have visited.
The locations rated "high risk" include a Thai restaurant in Melbourne's coastal suburb of Black Rock, which is linked to multiple positive cases.
Victoria recorded 10 new cases of community transmission on Saturday, all linked to the restaurant.
"We will not hesitate to take further action should we need to," Tasmanian Health Minister Sarah Courtney said.
‘Genomic proof is in the pudding’
Victoria's border is now closed to all travellers from NSW after its deadline of 11.59pm on Friday for residents to come home without having to go into quarantine.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley responded to Ms Berejiklian's earlier comments that a hard border was not the best use of resources, saying the "genomic proof is in the pudding" after sequencing results found the state's outbreak originated from Sydney's Croydon and Northern Beaches clusters.
Testing sites in Melbourne and surrounds saw long queues and delays as thousands rushed to get tested.
Western Australia was the first to completely shut its border to NSW last year and has done the same for Victoria on Friday since new cases emerged there.
The Northern Territory has revised its public health orders and barred entry for all greater Sydney residents.
South Australia has re-established its hard border with NSW, along with a 100-kilometre buffer for border communities.
Queensland has confirmed one new case of Covid-19, but is yet to announce further border restrictions in response to outbreaks in NSW and Victoria.
The case confirmed on Saturday was acquired overseas and the state has maintained its streak of no community transmission.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he respects the decisions of state and territory leaders to shut their borders but understands why people have been left frustrated.
"As much as we would like there to be greater consistency across all of these things, we must respect (the states') jurisdictional authority," Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday.
The federal government had aimed for Australia to be fully open by Christmas, a plan dashed by the Covid-19 outbreak on Sydney's Northern Beaches.
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