Sydney’s Covid Hotspot Spurs Lockdown of Northern Beaches
Authorities in Australia’s most populous state are considering imposing restrictions across Sydney to control a growing coronavirus outbreak that’s disrupting interstate travel and scuppered the nation’s premier yacht race.
New South Wales recorded 23 community-acquired Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours through 8 p.m. Friday, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. That takes to 38 the number linked to recreation and hospitality venues in suburban Avalon. From midnight, Tasmania will deem Sydney “medium-risk” and require travelers from the city to quarantine for 14 days.
Another two dozen or more cases may be reported Sunday, Berejiklian said, prompting a stay-at-home order for about 250,000 residents of Sydney’s Northern Beaches from 5 p.m. Saturday. Health officials will review the risks of wider spread across Sydney days before Australians gather to celebrate the Christmas holiday season.
“The rationale is because the case numbers are not looking like they will be going down in the next 48 hours,” Berejiklian said. “We’re hoping that will give us sufficient time to get on top of the virus so that we can then ease up for Christmas and the New Year.”
As a result of the increasing number of cases associated with the Sydney Northern Beaches and additional “risk locations” across greater Sydney, Western Australia imposed restrictions on travelers from New South Wales from midnight Saturday. Only people with a valid exemption will be allowed to enter the western state from New South Wales, and will be required to isolate for 14 days.
Tasmania has declared the greater Sydney area a “medium risk” from midnight Saturday, Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters in Hobart.
Tasmanians can return home from the Northern Beaches, but other travelers cannot, he said.
“From tomorrow, anyone who travels to Tasmania from the remainder of the Greater Sydney area other than the Northern Beaches area will have to quarantine for 14 days from arrival in Tasmania,” Gutwein said. Travelers without a suitable residence in which to quarantine will be placed in government facilities at their own cost, he added.
An additional seven Covid-19 cases were detected Friday among travelers being quarantined in hotels, taking the total number of infections in New South Wales to 4,523 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Berejiklian asked Sydney residents to refrain from non-essential travel and activities. “We want people essentially to stay home tonight and the next few nights so that we can ensure the virus doesn’t spread,” she said.
It’s also possible restrictions affecting other areas of Sydney will be announced Sunday, depending on the advice of health officials, she said. The Northern Beaches 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.
“I’m not suggesting we’ll take that decision tomorrow, but we’ll certainly consider it,” Berejiklian said.
All residents of the Northern Beaches local government area will be required to stay at home, unless permitted to leave for certain reasons, such as essential shopping, exercise and medical care. This will require the closure of hospitality venues, gyms and places of worship until 11.59 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We do need to maintain a very tough position in relation to the Northern Beaches, given the numbers we’re seeing coming through,” Berejiklian said.
Anyone traveling from the Northern Beaches will need to apply for an exemption to enter neighboring Queensland state, and, if approved, will need to spend 14 days quarantining in a hotel, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.
From 1 a.m. Sunday, anyone traveling from New South Wales to Queensland will be required to complete a border pass declaration form. In addition, those from the Sydney metropolitan area or the state’s Central Coast region will be required to isolate until they receive a negative test for Covid-19 after their arrival.
The changes reflect mounting concern that the coronavirus may be circulating in parts of Queensland after wastewater monitoring found traces of the virus in the Gold Coast, Townsville, Cleveland, and north Cairns.
State health officials will tighten restrictions next week on foreign international flight crew amid concern that infected airline workers may spread the virus. The changes include weekly Covid-19 testing and accommodating crew in dedicated quarantine hotels with government oversight, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said.
“Because we are seeing that significant increase in the numbers of cases around the world, and we’re starting to see airline crew become positive so the risk has increased,” Young told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday. “That’s why we think it’s timely to introduce it.”
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