Sydney Covid-19 Cluster Grows to 97; Lockdown Is Extended

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The cluster of Covid-19 infections in Sydney’s Northern Beaches has grown to 97, and a lockdown will be extended over Christmas to prevent the virus from spreading across the city, authorities said Wednesday.

The area’s 250,000 residents won’t be allowed to leave the Northern Beaches but will be permitted to have 5 or 10 guests in their homes over three days starting Thursday, depending on whether they live in the worst-affected communities, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

Limits on guests in homes have been slightly softened in the rest of the city, with children aged under 12 not counted among the cap of 10 adults.

The measured easing of rules, even while the source of the cluster remains unknown, reflects Berejiklian’s concern that a strict lockdown at Christmas would exact a mental-health toll on residents. Australia has been in the vanguard of nations that have managed to suppress community transmission.

“We don’t want people from the Northern Beaches mingling in other parts of Sydney,” Berejiklian said. “We don’t know how the virus got into the community and we want to make sure that there aren’t strains or lines of community transmission that we haven’t found yet.”

Decisions on New Year’s Eve celebrations and upcoming sporting events will be made after Christmas, she said. Eight new locally acquired cases were reported overnight, with seven linked to the Northern Beaches cluster.

Authorities are still trying to pinpoint the source of the cluster that’s caused other states to close their borders to Greater Sydney’s 5 million residents, disrupting travel plans over Christmas and the peak summer holiday season.

Australia has kept the total number of reported Covid-19 cases to fewer than 29,000. It’s done so through rigorous testing and contact tracing, and by shuttering the international border -- with all returned overseas travelers forced to isolate for 14 days in quarantine hotels.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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