Virus trend looking good for Xmas: premier

Angelo Risso
·3-min read

Gladys Berejiklian has welcomed the downward trend of new COVID-19 infections connected to Sydney's northern beaches cluster, but is yet to decide on Christmas gathering restrictions for the city.

NSW recorded eight new local COVID-19 cases, as well as 10 cases in returned travellers in hotel quarantine, in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday.

The tally came from a NSW record of almost 44,500 tests.

"The trend is going where we want it to go, where we need to it to go ... It's volatile, but we're confident that the strategy we've put in place is having the desired effect," the NSW premier told reporters on Tuesday.

Seven of the eight cases were linked to the northern beaches, taking the total for the cluster to 90, and another was found in a nurse transporting patients in hotel quarantine.

NSW had recorded 15 new locally acquired cases in the previous 24-hour period - half of the 30 locally-acquired cases recorded the day prior.

Ms Berejiklian said the low case numbers combined with the record testing gave authorities confidence they were on the right track, and would not need to further tighten restrictions for Christmas.

A decision will be made on gathering rules for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day when the NSW cabinet meets on Wednesday.

"We'll make a decision tomorrow as to what happens after midnight tomorrow night, and that will be based on the most recent information."

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said testing rates had lifted across all of greater Sydney, with a massive surge on the northern beaches.

New alerts were issued on Tuesday for Sydney venues visited by people infected with COVID-19, mostly on the northern beaches but also at Paddington's Alimentari deli and Bodyfit Gym in Blacktown. There are also several alerts for public transport routes between Sydney's CBD and Ryde.

A person who travelled from the northern beaches to Melbourne and was then diagnosed with COVID-19 also stopped at a cafe in Gundagai in southern NSW.

Another positive case visited Orange in regional NSW on Saturday. They were a close contact of a healthcare worker who was infected. The Central Square Shopping Centre is now subject to an alert, issued on Tuesday afternoon.

These add to the alerts posted on Monday night for cinemas, restaurants, hotels, clubs, cafes and gyms at Mona Vale, Newport, Narrabeen, Warriewood and Avalon, as well as several Sydney gyms and hotels.

So far, five COVID-19 cases have been linked to Turramurra Salon for Hair and two cases to the Rose of Australia hotel in Erskineville.

Dr Chant said "many thousands" of people around NSW were self-isolating, and would continue to do so over the festive period.

Ms Berejiklian criticised the leaders of other Australian states and territories for overzealous border policies following the outbreak of the 90-strong cluster.

Greater Sydney residents are now blocked from all interstate travel, while some states have also blocked Central Coast or Illawarra-Shoalhaven residents.

Queensland has reimposed NSW border checkpoints after some Sydneysiders attempted to enter the state illegally.

Ms Berejiklian said her counterparts' reaction to the Sydney cluster were excessive.

"There's an element of holding your nerve ... If you have confidence in your processes and your strategy, you also take that into account," she said.

"We assess the risk well and make decisions according to that, unlike some state colleagues who have taken what I think are overreaching actions given what's happened in NSW ... that's a matter for them."

Deputy Premier John Barilaro rejected calls to mandate mask-wearing in public, saying it wasn't "the be-all and end-all".

But Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said the government needed to act on mask-wearing because people were out shopping and at religious gatherings.

Meanwhile, NSW has from Tuesday begun forcing international air crew personnel into police-supervised hotel quarantine arrangements.

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