Sydney’s evolving COVID-19 crisis has infiltrated NSW Parliament after NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall tested positive to the virus.
Parliament House staffers have been told to stay home while MPs at the Macquarie St building on Thursday must undergo a rapid COVID test and remain on site until they receive the result.
Government Whip Adam Crouch has instructed MPs to “stay put” until they receive an update.
“If you are currently in Parliament House remain in Parliament House.
“If you are not in Parliament House, remain where you are,” he said in a statement.
Media and non-essential staff have been told to leave.
Mr Marshall contracted the virus after dining at Christo’s Pizza in Paddington on Monday night with Nationals colleagues Trevor Khan, Steph Cooke and Ben Franklin.
The four MPs were in parliament on Tuesday afternoon after attending a partyroom meeting earlier in the day.
“This morning just after 8am I was formally advised by NSW Health that I had returned a positive test for COVID-19,” Mr Marshall said in a statement on Thursday.
“I have been in isolation in Sydney since late Tuesday night, when I received a text message from NSW Health,” he said.
Mr Marshall is isolating at his flat in Sydney, and will not be able to return to his Armidale home for at least fourteen days. His ministerial staff are also in isolation.
Two of the three MPs Mr Marshall was dining with, Steph Cooke and Ben Franklin have confirmed they have returned negative tests, while AAP understands Trevor Khan has also tested negative.
Ms Cooke, the member for Cootamundra, said in a statement she had tested negative and was “following the advice of NSW Health by staying in isolation and will be taking further tests in coming days”.
Mr Franklin posted on social media late on Wednesday he had tested negative “but will need to be tested again on 28 June and 3 July before coming out of isolation on 6 July”.
The parliament will operate on a skeleton staff on 16 MPs on Thursday- just enough to pass the budget before the session is suspended.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard also revealed he is self isolating after being exposed to a potential case at parliament house.
Mr Hazzard admitted it “was likely” other MPs could be affected and told Channel Nine he stands next to Premier Gladys Berejiklian every day.
“I think the premier is fairly safe,” he said.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns has postponed his budget reply speech and says MPs have been advised to tell their staff to stay home.
“All sides agree now is not the time for politics … we need to get through what is a very difficult health situation in Sydney,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
NSW is likely to report more more COVID-19 cases on Thursday but Mr Hazzard played down fears Sydney is on the brink of a lockdown.
“I don’t believe that we will go into a lockdown,” he said.
“The advice is that’s not necessary so we will take that advice,” he told ABC Radio Sydney.
However, on Wednesday the premier warned “the NSW government will not hesitate to go further and harder if we have to”.
Meanwhile, school holiday plans are in tatters for many Sydney residents, with many confined to the metropolitan area, as NSW struggles to contain a coronavirus cluster that’s blown out to 31 infections.
Ms Berejiklian is urging people to “abandon non-essential activities” after introducing new rules for residents in Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour on Wednesday.
A household guest limit of five, including children, and the four-square-metre rule indoors and outdoors were introduced alongside mandatory masks in all indoor non-residential settings, including workplaces.
NSW Health issued more alerts for COVID-19 exposure sites at a range of venues at Darlinghurst, Double Bay, Bondi Beach, Bondi Junction, Narellan, Meadowbank and the Sydney CBD.
There were 16 new cases reported on Wednesday, taking the total number of infections to 31.
Residents who live or work in the City of Sydney, Waverley, Randwick, Canada Bay, Inner West, Bayside, and Woollahra local government areas cannot travel outside the metropolitan area unless it’s absolutely essential.
Masks must also be worn to gym classes, which are now limited to 20 people.
Other states have hardened their borders days before NSW public schools break for two weeks.