NSW pub rules tighten after virus outbreak

The NSW government will introduce stricter operating rules for pubs after more than 20 COVID-19 cases were linked to an outbreak at a Sydney pub.

The new COVID-19 rules for pubs and hotels will be announced on Tuesday, including a limit of 300 people regardless of size and group bookings capped at 10 people.

The measures are also expected to include stricter requirements for venues to take contact details of patrons and tougher regulations on pub cleaning.

The changes – decided during a meeting of senior government ministers on Monday night – will not apply to clubs, restaurants or The Star Casino.

The Queensland government on Tuesday declared the Liverpool and Campbelltown local government areas as COVID-19 hotspots.

Residents of those areas who seek to enter Queensland will be barred entry while Queensland-based visitors will be forced into 14 days of hotel quarantine once they return home.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reiterated that life would not return to “normal” until a vaccine is secured and refused to rule out tightening restrictions further.

“In a pandemic, many people indoors is a much higher risk than many people outdoors in a seated venue,” Ms Berejiklian told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

“It’s not necessarily the numbers – it’s what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Even five or six people mingling around the bar at a hotel is a huge no-no.”

Ms Berejiklian said she also wanted to see pub and hotel patrons restricted to seated service, banned from use of cutlery stations and forced to socially distance in queues.

NSW Health on Monday said 10 coronavirus cases were now directly linked to the Crossroads Hotel at Casula in southwest Sydney while 11 cases were indirectly connected.

NSW recorded 14 new cases as of 8pm on Sunday with four in hotel quarantine, two being NSW residents who caught the virus in Victoria and eight being linked to the Crossroads Hotel.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant later on Monday confirmed an additional eight cases had been reported up to midday – all linked to the Crossroads Hotel.

All patrons of the pub who entered from July 3 to 10 must self-isolate and are being urged to get tested as a precaution. Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection, with further test results expected this week.

Police are working with Liquor and Gaming to investigate if the hotel breached any guidelines.

One of the eight cases initially reported on Monday that was linked to the venue tested positive after also visiting The Star in Sydney on July 4.

Dr Chant said other venues across Sydney may have been exposed to the virus between June 27 and July 10 after visits from people linked to the outbreak.

These include Picton Hotel, Planet Fitness gym in Casula, Canterbury Leagues Club, Narellan Town Centre and Zone Bowling in Villawood. People who visited between these dates have been urged to watch for symptoms and get tested.

The Kmart store in Casula Mall on Monday night also underwent deep cleaning after an employee tested positive to COVID-19, centre management confirmed in a statement.

The employee and all of his co-workers are self-isolating.

Victorian health authorities also on Monday confirmed two residents had tested positive in the southern state after recently travelling to Merimbula on the southern NSW coast.

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