Journey sparks virus alert in NSW regions

Hannah Ryan
·3-min read

COVID-19 testing is ramping up in regional NSW where some residents must isolate after a young man travelled thousands of kilometres before testing positive.

The 18-year-old Sydney man visited Orange, Nyngan and Broken Hill in the state's central and western regions after visiting the bottle shop at the centre of a recent cluster on Christmas Eve. His case was identified on Tuesday.

Visitors to Orange's Birdie Noshery and Broken Hill's Gourmet Cribtin at certain times on January 2 and 3 are considered close contacts and must isolate for 14 days, NSW Health said on Tuesday.

There are also alerts for Nyngan's Riverside Tourist Park and BP petrol station, and Broken Hill's Shell petrol station for specific times over the weekend. More venues may be added to the list.

NSW Health is increasing testing capacity in the towns in response to the alerts.

It comes as NSW police on Monday began warning and fining people for breaching new rules requiring masks on public transport and in most indoor spaces.

One person was charged and two others fined, among them a man spotted at Parramatta shopping centre who had been warned earlier that day, and a man at Seven Hills Railway Station who allegedly swore at police and told them to fine him when confronted.

Another 25 people were warned by police on Monday.

Four locally acquired infections were recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, in addition to the case identified Tuesday.

Two are linked to the Berala BWS bottle shop cluster, which now totals 15 cases: a man in his 50s who shopped there on Christmas Eve and a household contact of a previous case.

Another new case visited the adjoining Woolworths but not the BWS, though her husband went to the bottle shop.

Health investigators are poring over CCTV from the shopping centre to establish whether transmission occurred in the Woolworths.

The other case is a household contact of a previously identified case in Croydon.

Some 26,391 people were tested in the 24-hour period, up from 22,275 the previous day.

Acting Premier John Barilaro said it was a "nice number" but needed to be at 30,000 or 40,000.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday urged multicultural community leaders in the Berala area to encourage testing.

He reminded the public that COVID tests are free for everyone.

People from Berala and surrounding suburbs face a $1000 fine if they attend the upcoming cricket Test at the SCG, with a public health order to be signed by Wednesday, Mr Hazzard said.

"It is essential that people from those suburbs do not attend this Test," he warned.

Health authorities have struggled to contact the thousands of people affected by broad alerts for the BWS and Woolworths at Berala. They have been forced to use credit card and rewards card data as QR codes are not mandatory in shops.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant appealed to Berala residents to prompt family, friends and colleagues to be tested if they had visited the shops.

On top of alerts for Woolworths and the BWS, NSW Health has recently issued alerts for the Earlwood Bardwell Park RSL, Auburn's Reading Cinema, and Woolworths and OKS Beauty and Hair in Lidcombe, all in western Sydney.

The northern part of the northern beaches peninsula, where the cluster of 148 infected people has not grown for the past two days, will remain under stay-at-home orders until at least Saturday.

Federal Liberal MP for Mackellar in the northern beaches, Jason Falinski, said on Twitter he would be asking Mr Hazzard to review the order and reopen businesses.

He said that residents who have not seen family since before Christmas have asked him why they are still under lockdown and that he did "not have a good answer".