The missing link between two worrying virus clusters has been revealed but the news was overshadowed by three new mystery cases of COVID-19 announced in NSW on Friday.
So far none of the three new cases are linked to the northern beaches cluster or associated with the family outbreak in Croydon.
All three cases were in Western Sydney, with two of those from the same household.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said all three are under investigation and is urging residents in Greystanes, Berala, Auburn and Lidcombe to get tested.
“Health is obviously following up on those three cases, two of which are in the same household, to establish any links but we are really keen to make sure that people in those suburbs come forward to get tested even if you have got the mildest of symptoms,” the Premier said.
More than 32,000 tests were conducted in the latest reporting period.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the cases in Western Sydney were a man in his 40s, and two men in their 20s. Two of the cases are household contacts.
They were yet to be linked to the Avalon cluster which stands at 146 cases.
Further investigations revealed a case from the Croydon cluster and a case from Wollongong both attended the Swallowed Anchor restaurant in Wollongong.
Anyone who attended the Swallowed Anchor at any time on December 19 must get tested and self-isolate until they receive further advice from NSW Health.
Genomic sequencing also indicated the Croydon cluster is linked to the original Avalon outbreak.
“The genomic sequencing result came back late yesterday, and what that showed is the Croydon cluster is linked to the Avalon cluster and the two cases recorded in Wollongong are also linked to the Avalon cluster,” Dr Chant confirmed to reporters on Friday.
“All those cases are linked, and investigations and contact tracing are trying to establish the epidemiological links, particularly to identify those missing links and hence the importance in relation to the Swallowed Anchor restaurant.
“There may have been a person at that restaurant who unknowingly had COVID-19 at that time who then had exposures or links to the northern beaches venues or sites.”
Two positive cases also travelled from Victoria to NSW on December 30 and dined at the Great Southern Hotel in Eden, on the NSW south coast, between 5pm and 6.30pm that evening.
Dr Chant said the venue has been contacted and contact tracing is under way.
The pair are linked to the Smile Buffalo Thai Restaurant cluster in Black Rock and were told they were close contacts of another case while on a road trip to NSW before they got tested.
One of the cases also ate at the Bermi’s Beachside Cafe in Bermagui between 9pm and 10pm on December 31.
The two new cases were revealed after Victorian authorities announced five new infections on Thursday, which were reported in Friday’s numbers. All have links to a Thai restaurant in Black Rock where a NSW returned traveller had dined.
That traveller is yet to return a positive result, but investigations are underway.
In response, other state premiers have slammed their borders shut to NSW residents, including those who live in, or have visited, regional parts of the state.
News of closures sparked a mad rush for holiday-makers to flee across the Victoria border before the midnight deadline in order to avoid isolating at home for 14 days, triggering hours long queues – some 25km long.
South Australia has also closed its border to NSW, while Western Australia slammed its shut to Victorians.