Sydney Covid Measures Widen Amid Northern Beaches Outbreak

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Restrictions will be imposed across Sydney to arrest a growing coronavirus outbreak that’s disrupting interstate travel and scuppered the nation’s premier yacht race.

Authorities in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, will limit gatherings in homes and entertainment venues from midnight Sunday after 30 community-acquired Covid-19 cases were recorded in the 24 hours through 8 p.m. Saturday, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

At least 28 of the new cases were linked to a growing cluster of infections in the city’s Northern Beaches area that stands at 66. Twenty-three community-acquired Covid-19 cases were reported the day before, prompting at least five states to impose restrictions or border measures on travelers from New South Wales to prevent the virus spreading ahead of Australians gathering to celebrate the Christmas holiday season.

Whilst the numbers are higher today than yesterday, the one positive is we still have not seen evidence of massive seeding outside of the Northern Beaches community,” Berejiklian said. “And our aim, of course, is to keep that in place.”

Australia has managed to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the past, keeping the total number of reported Covid-19 cases to fewer than 29,000, including 908 fatalities, since the start of the pandemic.

Victoria declared the Sydney metropolitan area and the New South Wales Central Coast a “red zone,” meaning people who have spent time in those areas will not be permitted to enter Victoria from 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The measures will remain in place until public health advice indicates they are no longer required, Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

“If you do arrive back or travel here, you will face 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine,” Andrews said. Victorians returning to the state from those areas will be required to quarantine in their homes or in a hotel, he said.

Western Australia closed its border to New South Wales Saturday, when Tasmania and Queensland also announced border measures to prevent the arrival of potentially infected travelers.

South Australia will close its border Sunday night to anyone from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, state Premier Steven Marshall told reporters in Adelaide. Anyone who has been in the Sydney metropolitan area will require testing on arrival in South Australia and 14 days quarantine there, with repeat Covid tests on days 5 and 12, Marshall said. Visitors from regional New South Wales require testing on arrival, but isolation isn’t required.

Though the majority of cases in Sydney are from the Northern Beaches area, it’s possible infections may emerge in other districts, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

“There is every chance that people will crop up as cases in the greater Sydney area,” he said. “And so we do not want those individuals traveling to Victoria, unless they are returning Victorians.”

Race Canceled

The new outbreak caused the cancellation of the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The 76-year-old race is the country’s most prestigious yachting event and was scheduled to start from Sydney on Dec. 26.

Household gatherings in metropolitan Sydney will be limited to 10 visitors until at least 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23, the New South Wales Health department said.

Indoor settings including hospitality venues and places of worship will be limited to one person per 4 square meters (43 square feet), with a maximum of 300 people. Singing and chanting at indoor venues will also be barred.

Stay at home orders for some 250,000 residents in the Northern Beaches local government area will also continue until midnight Wednesday. The region includes the popular seaside suburb of Manly, and Palm Beach, where the Australian television soap opera “Home and Away” has been filmed since 1988.

“We realize the effect this will have on residents and venues, and hope to lift the cap and restrictions as soon as possible,” Berejiklian said. “But we must take this action now to ensure we keep on top of this outbreak.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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