Premier announces restrictions to curb new Covid outbreak

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. File photo.

By PETER HACKNEY

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a return of various Covid-19 restrictions in a bid to curb a new outbreak of locally transmitted cases, which began with a mystery Covid-19 case recorded in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs yesterday. 

On Wednesday, a Sydney man in his 50s tested positive to Covid-19, sending shockwaves through the city as the man had not returned from overseas, and does not work in border control, healthcare or quarantine. 

Overnight, the man’s wife also tested positive to the virus. Genomic tracing has linked the couple’s infections to a returned traveller from the USA, who has an Indian variant of the virus – but it is not known how the husband and wife are linked to the traveller. 

Authorities have reported that confirmed case locations (venues visited by a person with Covid-19 within the last 14 days) include venues in Annandale, Bondi Junction, Casula, the CBD, Mascot, Paddington, Silverwater and Rushcutters Bay.

Ms Berejiklian yesterday said the man had been “very active” in the community, heightening fears that a wider outbreak is possible.

Today, the premier brought back a raft of restrictions to help prevent further cases.

The restrictions, to come in at 5pm today, include: 

  • No more than 20 guests (including children) to gather in a household.
  • Masks compulsory on public transport and in public indoor venues including retail outlets, theatres, hospitals and aged care facilities.
  • Front of house hospitality staff must wear face masks.
  • Drinking while standing in indoor venues is not allowed.
  • Dancing is not allowed at indoor hospitality venues or clubs, except at weddings where it is recommended no more than 20 people are on a dance floor at one time.
  • Visitors to aged care facilities must be limited to two people.

The restrictions apply across Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong, and will be in place until 12.01am Monday, pending further review.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said health investigators had located the original source of infection in an overseas case from the Parkroyal Hotel at Darling Harbour.

The sequencing shows the person tested positive for Covid-19 on day one of their quarantine and was moved to the Sydney Local Health District’s Special Health Accommodation on Wednesday, 28 April.

Laboratory technicians are still trying to find the “missing link” between the traveller from the US and the Sydney couple. 

“What we’re concerned about is that there is a missing link,” Dr Chant said.

“As you can imagine, [there are] strict procedures around the person being admitted to the quarantine facility and then transferred to our health quarantine facility.

“We can’t find any direct link between our case.”

In addition to the two confirmed locally acquired cases, NSW Health said fragments of the virus that causes Covid-19 has been detected in the Marrickville sewage network, which covers more than 40,00 people in the suburbs of Ashfield, Dulwich Hill, Haberfield, Leichhardt, Lewisham, Lilyfield, Marrickville, Petersham and Summer Hill. 

NSW Health has urged everyone in NSW with even the mildest symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat or runny nose, to come forward immediately for testing, and then isolate until they receive a negative result.

Peter Hackney is the editor-in-chief of the Sydney Sentinel.