Australia is facing a new coronavirus nightmare as Victoria records six new cases while the Sydney cluster explodes outside the northern beaches.
Rohan Smith and Sam Clench
December 31, 2020 11:16AM
Last updated December 31, 2020 11:34AM AEDT
Australia’s celebrated coronavirus record is now unravelling with 10 new cases in NSW and six in Victoria.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today confirmed five cases have been linked to the Avalon cluster with an additional three cases linked to the Croydon cluster.
Another was linked to a transport worker cluster and another is under investigation.
Meanwhile, Victoria has recorded six new cases, with the state returning to harsh restrictions within hours in a bid to stop the spread.
Authorities across both states have pleaded with the public to avoid New Year’s celebrations this evening amid fears it could lead to “superspreader” events, and have urged the public to take the current threat seriously and to follow public health advice.
Read on for the latest news.
As it currently stands the Sydney Test at the SCG will continue to go ahead. Dr Chant said they were “very keen” to work with the SCG to make sure COVID-safety plans were put in place, but added “community transmission is a concern.
“So I think it’s really clear that this is an evolving situation and we will update our advice accordingly,” she said.
South Australia will be closed to NSW residents from midnight tonight as the current coronavirus crisis continues to escalate.
The announcement was made after NSW recorded 10 new cases overnight.
Premier Steven Marshall announced the hard border, which will be back in place as of one minute past midnight, will include few exemptions, including returning locals.
“If you’re going into indoor venues, when you’re anywhere that you can’t social distance, wear a mask,” she said.
“And, look, the community has been so good to come along with many other elements. We really just urging the community to redouble your efforts.
“Please wear a mask.”
Sharing more details about the Croydon cluster, Dr Chant said members in the three households linked to the original cluster have attended a “number of functions” that occured between Christmas and Boxing Day.
The cases were also in the community while unknowingly infectious, although it’s still “too early” to tell if there’s been transmission as a result of this.
“So it means, and I’m very sorry for this, but your New Year’s Eve plans will have to change,” she said.
NSW Health is still unclear over the origins of the Croydon cluster, however Dr Chant said she’s expecting a result later this afternoon.
She used this opportunity to remind people of the importance of testing so authorities are able to link “person-to-person transmission”.
“If we had not had that person come forward for testing, those nine cases may not have presented because the symptoms are so mild and some of them had very minimal symptoms,” she said.
“We would have potentially had further chains of transmission in the
community amongst their close contacts and an escalating number of cases.”
Assistant Commissioner Michael Willing APM is now giving an update on the police operation during New Year’s Eve in Sydney.
He says “large numbers of uniformed police officers” will be appearing at licensed venues and urged people to follow current health orders and to not come into the city unless they have a New Year’s Eve pass.
“We’ll be checking licensed premises, we’ll be doorknocking when necessary,” he says.
“We’ll be out and patrolling public areas to ensure people abide by the current health orders.”
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley says the state was not planning to impose a further lockdown at this stage.
However, he warned of the need to “go hard and go early” to clamp down on the “wildly infectious virus”.
“All measures are always on the table. This is early days – (but) as we’ve seen in other outbreaks over other areas…we can get through this,” he said.
“My message to Victorians is we’ve all got to do our bit to reduce movement (and) wear masks to stay safe and stay open.”
The Avalon cluster has now reached 144 cases, says NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant.
She also announced that the five new cases announced today also include two cases who were a close contact to a reported case in Northern Sydney. As a result a number of new locations have been highlighted as venues where people will need to get tested. This include places in Earlwood, Narrabeen, Pittwater, Bankstown, Casula and Rhodes.
We’ll update you of the exact locations as they come through.
Dr Jeroen Weimar said he was “absolutely concerned” about the unfolding crisis, and said authorities were racing against the clock to trace contacts of positive cases.
“That’s why we’ve made the very difficult set of decisions to put significant restrictions back onto Victoria and it’s something we do with deep regret and heavy hearts, but we can see how quickly this virus moves around,” he said.
He said authorities had made “tough calls” in a bid to curb “further acceleration” of cases in the days ahead, a threat which could be exacerbated by end of year celebrations.
Speaking to reporters, the Premier thanked residents from the northern beaches for their patience and said the government is looking to ease restrictions for those in the southern zone in the “next few days”.
“We’re looking forward to be giving some relief to the southern part of the Northern Beaches from January 3 and we’ll make that clear on the second,” she said.
The northern zone of the Northern Beaches, however will still be under stay-at-home provisions until January 9.