Virus controls keep lid on new outbreaks

Paul Osborne
·3-min read

Medical experts say action across Sydney and Melbourne to deal with coronavirus cases is bearing fruit, but there is no room for complacency.

NSW recorded no locally acquired cases in its reporting period for Monday while Victoria had three - all linked to the Black Rock outbreak which was seeded by NSW's northern beaches cluster.

Across the country there were 26 people in hospital but none in intensive care.

"While we are concerned with these locally acquired cases ... the contact tracing exercise, the testing and the isolation efforts that are being done in both Victoria and NSW are bearing fruit," Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told reporters in Canberra.

The figures came as crowd numbers were cut to 25 per cent of capacity for the Australia-India Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, after further discussions on making it a COVID-safe event.

Ticketholders will be refunded and then given an exclusive window in which to repurchase tickets, after which they would be sold to the general public.

However, people from areas which have had confirmed cases in the past 14 days won't be able to attend.

Australians seeking to return home or go on holidays are being met with a mixed bag of border restrictions and permits across the country.

Professor Kelly said the issue of border closures was discussed at a meeting of peak health officers on Monday, but it remained a matter for individual states.

"They are doing what they feel is necessary to protect their own populations within their states," he said, noting the Northern Territory and Tasmania were using the hotspot model.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese raised concerns on Monday that national cabinet was meeting infrequently and government promises about a fast vaccine rollout were not being met, as Australians watched citizens of other countries get the jab.

"Australia is not at the front of the queue. We have never been at the front of the queue," Mr Albanese said.

Prof Kelly said the vaccine approval and distribution process was "on target" and the aim remained to have Australians vaccinated by the end of 2021.

"We have our finger on the pulse there," he said.

It was the first time in almost three weeks that NSW recorded no new locally acquired coronavirus cases over a designated 24-hour period.

However, two new cases linked to a western Sydney bottle shop have since been registered, adding to concerns about the Berala cluster.

Sydneysiders who flout new mandatory mask rules from Monday risk a $200 fine.

More than 60,000 Victorians rushed back from NSW as a hard border between the two states came into effect on Friday night.

All were required to be tested once back in Victoria, putting testing facilities under strain.

Agriculture workers who live and work between NSW and Victoria and not covered by existing border bubble arrangements are now eligible to apply for a permit.

Queensland has recorded five new COVID-19 cases in overseas traveller quarantine, as restrictions on aged care facilities and hospitals for Victorian visitors come into force.

The Queensland border is already closed to anyone who has been in the COVID-declared hotspots of greater Sydney and surrounding areas in the past 14 days. Those restrictions are expected to be reviewed on January 8.

Border declaration passes are also needed for travellers who have visited NSW since December 11.

South Australia will look for 14 days of no community transmission before lifting coronavirus restrictions with NSW.

But the premier says there are no plans to also close the state's border with Victoria.

Western Australia will consider reinstating its hard border closure to all states if the current coronavirus outbreaks in NSW and Victoria spread to other jurisdictions, Premier Mark McGowan says.