NSW coronavirus: Clusters grow from 'two different strains'

·News Reporter
·4-min read

Eight new locally acquired cases of coronavirus have been recorded in NSW as residents prepare for the enforcement of fines for not wearing a face masks under certain circumstances.

Two of the new cases recorded prior to Sunday were household contacts of the Avalon cluster, five are connected to the Berala cluster and one is a household contact of a known source in Wollongong.

Health minister Kerry Chant revealed there were now 13 cases connected to the Berala cluster, sparking health authorities to review its advice for people who recently visited the town’s BWS where they believe local transmissions have occurred.

Health minister Kerry Chant implored people to remain isolated if they had visited BWS in Berala recently. Source: Getty Images
Health minister Kerry Chant implored people to remain isolated if they had visited BWS in Berala recently. Source: Getty Images

Acting premier John Barilaro expressed gratitude to the 18,923 people who presented for testing but called on more to come forward.

“Even though we are thankful for the 18,923 that came forward, we want to see those numbers get up, close to 20-30,000 people,” he told reporters.

Berala BWS site of big concern

Health authorities revived calls for people who attended the BWS bottle shop to come forward for testing.

“This is critical information because we know that there have been transmission events at this venue,” Dr Chant told reporters.

“We have identified more than 2,000 people have been contacted and told to get tested and isolate.

“It is important that we know that those transmission events occurred through what appear to be very brief exposures at that venue.”

A General view of the BWS store at Berala on Saturday. Source: AAP
A General view of the BWS store at Berala on Saturday. Source: AAP

Dr Chant revealed the cluster linked to the BWS has been traced back to a patient transport worker, not the Avalon cluster on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, as was previously thought.

“We have been dealing with two different strains that have been causing clusters. We had a family group who had returned from overseas and were transported to a health facility.

“Unfortunately one of the patient transport workers acquired infection, passed it on to a colleague, that colleague had been at the Berala BWS for a very fleeting amount of time, but what we now know is that transmission occurred,” she said.

“So it is critical that because we know these transmission events have happened through very minimal exposure, we are asking members of the community who did purchase alcohol or enter that premises for that period to be very vigilant and take the public health action of isolating for 14 days if you were there at those times.”

People who visited the BWS in Berala between December 22 and December 31 during certain periods of time “must get tested immediately, self-isolate, remain in isolation for 14 days since you were last there regardless if you receive a negative test”.

This applies to those at the retailer on December 22 between 12.41pm and 9.15pm, December 23 from 1.40pm to 9.15pm, December 24 12.40pm to 9.17pm, and December 26 between 9.55am and 7.15pm.

Also those who visited on December 27 between 12.39pm and 8.15pm, December 28 between 9.30am and 7.15pm, December 29 between 1.41pm and 9.15pm, December 30 between 12.45pm and 9.15pm, and December 31 between 8.30am and 3pm.

It comes after seven new locally acquired cases were reported on Saturday, with the premier announcing face masks would become mandatory for certain indoor settings over the weekend.

Onwards from Monday, those not wearing a mask in certain indoor public settings face a $200 fine.

Fine will be ‘last resort’

Police will enforce the health orders requiring people to wear face masks from midnight Sunday.

“Can I make it very clear that in the initial aspect of this health order, we will be focusing on compliance,” the NSW acting commissioner told reporters Sunday.

“There is a $200 fine for an individual who fails to comply with the health order in terms of the wearing of a mask from midnight tonight.

“However, that will be a last resort. We will use a very common sense approach to our policing and discretion where it's appropriate.”

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