A cluster of suburbs in Sydney’s northwest has become the new epicentre of the coronavirus in Australia as health authorities desperately try and minimise its spread across the city.
A second worker from the Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care facility at Macquarie Park has tested positive for coronavirus, it was confirmed on Friday, taking the tally for the residence up to six.
Four elderly residents – including a 95-year-old woman who has since died – also contracted the virus.
"We could well see additional cases in that nursing home... [but] what we are actually trying to do is prevent any further onwards transmission," NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
However at this stage that appears to be a difficult task, with the virus detected nearby in multiple facilities each with a high density of people.
A nurse who was first to show coronavirus symptoms at the centre hadn’t travelled abroad, leaving NSW Health stumped as to where she’d contracted it.
On Thursday, the Banksia Cottage childcare centre, just 300 metres from the aged care facility, was closed after staff complained of feeling unwell.
It was later confirmed 17 of the children and staff from the centre had visited the Dorothy Henderson Lodge on February 24.
The children have since been tested and returned negative results.
And late on Thursday, Epping Boys High School, 1.9km northwest of the childcare centre, was shut down after a Year 11 student was confirmed to have contracted the virus.
More than 1100 pupils have been told to self-isolate in a desperate bid to curtail the virus’s spread.
The boy’s mother reportedly works at Ryde Hospital, 3.7km southwest of Dorothy Henderson Lodge, where a 53-year-old male doctor tested positive for the virus.
From Ryde Hospital 61 members of staff have gone into self-isolation, while 56 patients have been identified as having contact with the member of staff.
The doctor’s cause of infection is also unknown.
NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said it was “concerning” not knowing who the virus was being spread by.
A lecturer from Macquarie University, a stone’s throw from the Dorothy Henderson Lodge, has also tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Iran, but he had not set foot on campus following his return.
Associate Professor Ian Mackay, a virologist from the University of Queensland, told The Australian cases in such close proximity were not a surprise.
“It will be occurring because there’s either some common source that hasn’t been found yet, or a few people that are infected that flew under the radar in that area,” he said.
Prof Mackay said it was possible the virus had spread through people who hadn’t shown any symptoms and a similar spread across Australia where it was difficult to trace transmission links was inevitable.
“This kind of spread is what I think we’re going to see more of. It’s the speed at which we will see it we don’t know yet,” he said.
Prof Mackay previously stated all of Australia’s population at some point over the next two years will contract the virus in some form.
So far the state of NSW has 26 confirmed cases of coronavirus, double that of Queensland which has 13. There are 61 cases across Australia.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.