As NSW residents wait to hear what Christmas Day will be like this year, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has pointed to a crucial factor that will influence what restrictions are put in place.
Ms Berejiklian is due to announce Christmas arrangements on Wednesday and she said this decision would be based on a number of factors.
“On the basis of the advice provided by (Chief Health Officer) Dr Chant and her team, we’ll be making a decision tomorrow as to what happens after midnight tomorrow night,” she said.
“And that will be based on the most recent information plus also looking at the trends that have been occurring.
“In particular looking at the multiplicity of venues and what that means outside of the northern beaches.
“And whilst the vast majority of cases are all linked to those two events on northern beaches, we now know that there’s more venues out there and what risk does that pose?”
Restrictions on northern beaches residents are likely to be more severe than those on Greater Sydney as almost all NSW cases have been linked to the Avalon cluster, which has grown to 90 cases. Another two cases were found in northern beaches residents.
The other remaining case in NSW is still under investigation but Ms Berejiklian said it involved a healthcare worker from western Sydney who was involved in the transfer of patients between hospitals, homes and care facilities.
However, even though most cases are linked to the Avalon cluster, coronavirus infections have seeped out into other areas of Sydney and focus is now turning to venues outside the northern beaches.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said transmission of the virus outside of the northern beaches was concerning because people were not subject to the same lockdown provisions as those in the northern beaches.
In particular she highlighted three venues that authorities were particularly concerned about.
This includes the Rose of Australia in Erskineville where a confirmed case ate on Tuesday, December 15 and appears to have infected another diner.
An alert has also been issued for Paddington Alimentari Deli and Cafe where a staff member diagnosed with COVID worked between December 17 and 19, while a confirmed COVID case also visited the Bodyfit Gym at Blacktown during certain times between December 16 and 18.
“We haven’t got transmission at that event but we know that gyms are high risk for transmission so we want to take a very precautionary approach and get people to be aware of their need to isolate immediately,” Dr Chant said.
Anyone who attended these venues on certain dates and times has been asked to get tested and to isolate immediately for 14 days regardless of the result.
For these people Christmas will certainly be a solitary affair and Ms Berejiklian said there were many thousands of people who were currently in isolation.
There are also other indications that the virus has spread into other areas of Sydney.
Dr Chant pointed out that surveillance of Sydney’s sewage system found traces of the virus at a treatment plant at Hornsby Heights. This system services Berowra, Cowan, Berowra Heights, Hornsby Heights, Mount Colah, Mount Kuring-Gai, Asquith and Hornsby.
“NSW Health is aware of two positive COVID-19 cases in the area who are linked to the Avalon cluster but as a precaution we want to draw people’s attention to that positive result,” she said.
“It may be linked to those cases in the area but regardless we urge people in those areas to be vigilant for symptoms and please attend for testing.”
Any further spread of the coronavirus outside the northern beaches will influence decision making on Christmas Day.
Ms Berejiklian noted that the decision on Christmas Day would be much easier if it wasn’t for the time of year.
Experts have warned of the superspreading potential of Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, which could see as many as 3000 people infected by the second week of January.
However, Ms Berejiklian did provide some hope to those outside of the Sydney region.
“There’s no reason for us at all, to consider any changes to what’s happening in regional communities,” she told reporters.
She provided no further hints about what restrictions would be in place on northern beaches residents or those in Greater Sydney.
“Things evolve by the day and we will base our decision on that best information we have as at tomorrow,” she said.
The number of new coronavirus cases in NSW has declined in the last two days, with only eight new cases reported today, although the Premier has warned the numbers were volatile and this could change.
So far authorities have resisted calls for mandatory masks in Greater Sydney despite experts saying it could cut the risk considerably ahead of Christmas Day celebrations.
“Clearly if the case numbers were going in the opposite direction, you’d look at all the settings but given where we are now, we believe very strongly and I’ve used this word a lot in the last few days, having a proportionate response to what we’re experiencing,” Ms Berejiklian said.
She said authorities considered a range of factors, including mental health issues, when making decisions.