Three more weeks to squash clusters: NSW

NSW will require at least another three weeks to fully extinguish COVID-19 clusters around Greater Sydney, health authorities have warned.

The state recorded one new local COVID-19 case in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday – a child who was a close contact of a case linked to the 28-person Berala cluster in western Sydney.

Six COVID-19 cases were uncovered in NSW hotel quarantine.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday also confirmed a COVID-positive man, who presented to Mount Druitt Hospital with respiratory symptoms, and his partner are linked to the Berala cluster.

While Ms Berejiklian said NSW was in the “mopping-up” phase of the outbreak, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said more time was required to fully squash outbreaks in the northern beaches and Berala.

The government earlier said it was unlikely coronavirus-prompted restrictions in Greater Sydney would be eased this week, while mandatory mask usage would not change in the near future.

The northern beaches cluster numbers more than 150 people, but on Wednesday had its federal COVID-19 hotspot status revoked by Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

“It would take at least three, maybe four weeks, and so I need the community to be on track with us,” Dr Chant told reporters on Wednesday.

“As an epidemiologist, we like to see around two incubation periods before we assess that we are free of the disease … There are multiple factors.”

Ms Berejiklian backed her state’s contact tracing teams, saying their work enabled the government to make decisions that didn’t place “unnecessary burdens” on residents, such as keeping interstate borders open.

NSW on Tuesday came in for criticism from Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan, who argued the state was the sole proponent of a COVID-19 suppression strategy, as opposed to elimination.

National Cabinet has previously endorsed a suppression strategy.

The NSW premier reiterated on Wednesday that coronavirus restrictions would remain in some form until the end of the pandemic.

“Once the vaccine begins rolling out, it does not mean we stop being COVID-safe … we have to stay COVID-safe for a while longer until the pandemic can be deemed to be over (and) we don’t know when that end date is,” she said.

“There is no doubt that for a period of time, we had no cases of community transmission in NSW – it was a good place to be.

“But it only took literally one super-spreading event to have that changed.”

One NSW COVID-19 patient is in hospital in intensive care and on a ventilator.

Public health alerts remain in place for dozens of hotspots around Greater Sydney, including a shopping centre in Warriewood, a post office in Hurlstone Park and a workers club in Blacktown.

A casual-contact alert was issued on Tuesday night for The Groomsmen Barber Shop inside the Warriewood shopping centre.

The ACT and Northern Territory have lifted travel restrictions for residents of the Central Coast, Wollongong and some parts of Greater Sydney.

NSW Health is still working to link 12 COVID-19 cases in the state since December 16 to known clusters. Two cases since December 16 have been fully investigated, with no chains of transmission found.

Meanwhile, Sydney’s Luna Park amusement park was on Wednesday fined $5000 for hosting a large crowd on New Year’s Eve, against public health orders.

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