Thousands of people forced into Covid self-isolation across two states

·News Reporter
·6-min read

Across Victoria and NSW tens of thousands of people are self-isolating after contact tracing identified them as potentially infected by coronavirus.

A bottle shop in suburban Berala, west of Sydney, is causing anxiety for authorities after it was named as an exposure site for 10 days over the Christmas period.

Anyone who visited the store between December 22 and New Year's Eve has been ordered to isolate while health officials try to ensure the spread is contained.

In Victoria more than 2500 close primary and secondary contacts of those infected by the Black Rock cluster, in bayside Melbourne, are quarantining to avoid a major spread.

Cars line up at a coronavirus testing site in Victoria.
Huge queues have formed at testing sites across Victoria as residents follow coronavirus health orders. Source: AAP

There are now exposure sites in Albert Park, Bairnsdale, Black Rock, Box Hill South, Brighton, Camberwell, Cape Schank, Caufield, Cheltenham, Doveton, Forrest Hill, and Fountain Gate Shopping Centre.

Further locations in Hallam, Glen Waverley, Lakes Entrance, Leongatha, Mentone, Mordialloc, Melbourne CBD, Moorabbin, Mount Waverley, Oakleigh, Southbank, and Wonthaggi have also been added to the list.

Victorian health authorities expect the list of exposure sites to increase in coming days as contact tracing continues.

Three new cases in Victoria on Sunday were linked to the Black Rock cluster, which now has 21 cases associated with a Thai restaurant in the suburb.

Only 13 attended the restaurant while others were close contacts over the Christmas period.

The number of potential exposure sites in Victoria swelled to 51 on Sunday. Residents are urged to check the Victoria Health website for exact times and dates.

Updated Covid warning for Western Sydney, public transport

NSW Health has also updated its exposure sites to include another date for the BWS Berala store, a Woolworths, and several bus and train services.

Those at the bottle shop on December 20 between 12.30pm and 2pm, 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, must get tested and isolate immediately.

Additionally 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 are being asked to do the same.

Meanwhile Woolworths Berala was a potential exposure site on December 20 between 12.30pm and 2pm, with anyone in the store at that time urged to get tested and isolate immediately.

Anyone who attended The Coffee Club inside Stockland Shellharbour for more than an hour between 11.30am and 12.45pm on December 27 is also considered a close contact.

The same applies to anyone who visited Trovatino Café in Wareemba on December 24 between 3.10pm and 4.10pm.

Shoppers in Sydney, some wearing face masks.
Shoppers took to streets in Sydney ahead of face masks being mandated on Monday. Source: AAP

Those at the Australian Motor Traders in Haberfield on December 29 between 4.30pm and 5pm, and the Swallowed Anchor in Wollongong on December 19 at any time are considered casual contacts.

People who travelled on the following bus routes on the listed date and time are considered a casual contact too, and should monitor themselves for symptoms:

  • 724: December 30, departing Blacktown Station, Stand F at 12.02pm and arriving Walters Road before Holbeche Road at 12.14pm

  • 400: December 30, departing Sydney Airport Terminal 1, International at 6.07am and arriving Westfield Eastgardens, Bunnerong Road at 6.18am

  • 400: January 1, departing Mascot Station, Coward St, Stand A at 6.19am and arriving Westfield Eastgardens, Bunnerong Rd, Stand A at 6.28am

  • 420: January 1, departing Westfield Eastgardens, Lower Level, Stand B at 10.46am and arriving Mascot Station, Coward St, Stand B at 11.00am

People who travelled on the following train services are also considered casual contacts of a positive case:

  • T1 Western Line: December 30, departing Strathfield 11.33am and arriving Blacktown 11.58am

  • T1 Western Line: December 30, departing Blacktown 6.43pm and arriving Strathfield 7.24pm

  • T9 Northern Line: December 30, departing Burwood 9.29pm and arriving Mortdale 10.16pm

  • T8 Airport and South Line: December 30, departing Macquarie Fields 5.08am and arriving Mascot 5.51am

  • T8 Airport and South Line: December 30, departing Mascot 2pm and arriving Macquarie Fields 2.47pm

  • T8 Airport and South Line: January 1, departing Macquarie Fields 5.22am and arriving Mascot 6.17am

  • T8 Airport and South Line: January 1, departing Mascot 11.03am and arriving Macquarie Fields 11.47am

  • Mascot to Macquarie Fields: January 1, 11.03am – 11.47am

Public urged to ‘take this seriously’

University of NSW epidemiologist Marylouise McLaws, a World Health Organisation adviser, implored authorities to take the threat of an out-of-control cluster seriously.

She argued in favour of “ring fencing” an area in Western Sydney in response to cases linked to the Berala BWS after two employees worked for 10 consecutive days over Christmas and New Year’s.

“If they’re really worried about this outbreak, they should be thinking about ring fencing the area, but taking that concern to the cricket grounds as well,” Professor McLaws told ABC News Breakfast on Monday.

“It doesn’t just stop in the suburb. A healthy economy is reliant on healthy people. The two go together.”

Prof McLaws likened the Western Sydney cluster to the one in the Northern Beaches, which sparked a lockdown of the southern and northern region – the latter of which is still in place.

“We really need to think. If it was good enough to lock down, although it was a fairly light lockdown, in the Northern Beaches... it’s good enough to do that in this area.”

She said complacency from the public could result in the “disaster” unfolding in the UK and US, urging that “we need to take this seriously, very, very rapidly”.

‘Potentially enormous event’ could have happened

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has applauded authorities in the two states for their quick response and contact tracing.

While the NSW outbreaks have seeded across different Sydney locations and into Melbourne, according to genomic testing, a "potentially enormous event" could have occurred, he said.

Mr Hunt said Victoria was in a much stronger place this time around, but cautioned any response around border closures had to have a compassionate element.

Victoria’s border is now closed to all travellers from NSW, with some Victorian residents unable to make it home.

More than 1500 people have applied for exemptions to the strict border ban, but so far just 117 have been granted, including for end-of-life visits and funerals.

“We’re confident that Victoria will work and find ways to bring people home to their home state,” Mr Hunt said, adding Australia had no “domestic passports”.

People not wearing masks in certain indoor spaces including supermarkets and public transport from Monday could face a $200 fine in NSW.

With AAP

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