“The risk in Greater Sydney, in greater NSW, is almost as high as the southern tip of the northern beaches,” Ms Berejiklian said. “We don’t want people to think we’re out of the woods – far from it.”
Just 16,320 tests were performed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday.
Ms Berejiklian said the unlinked cases and a collapse in testing numbers over the holiday weekend should place Sydneysiders on high alert in the lead-up to New Year’s Eve.
A statewide police operation planned for New Year’s Eve will see large numbers of uniformed and specialist command officers stationed across the city centre to stop revellers congregating in a potential super-spreader event.
The new cases bring the total number of cases in Greater Sydney (outside the northern beaches) to 46, with 43 cases detected between December 16 and 27.
The cases scattered across more than 25 suburbs – from Balmain to Bondi and Doonside – account for almost one-third of NSW’s COVID cases detected since the emergence of this new outbreak.
Meanwhile, the northern beaches strategy appears to be working, with just three new cases detected to 8pm on Monday night, all in people already identified as close contacts of confirmed cases and who were isolating.
Ms Berejiklian said there “will be relief” for people in the lower northern beaches on January 3, foreshadowing an announcement on January 2.
But any easing of restrictions for the upper northern beaches is not expected until at least January 9.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said daily testing numbers needed to double.
“I want to see those numbers pushed up, well over 20 to 30,000,” she said.
Dr Chant urged Sydneysiders to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home.
“Limit your gatherings, only meet with those people that are essential to meet with. This will assist us if there are any undetected chains of transmission, to ensure that we don’t have a super spreading event,” she said.
From 5pm on Thursday, key fireworks vantage points in the CBD and lower north shore such as Circular Quay and Milsons Point will be accessible only to residents and those with bookings at restaurants or hotels under a permit system.
North Sydney, Inner West, Hunters Hill and Woollahra councils have announced plans to close other popular vantage points outside of the permit zone.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said the measures governing the harbour foreshore, city centre and greater Sydney on New Year’s Eve would be strictly enforced.
“If you don’t have a New Year’s Eve pass do not try and get into the CBD green zone. Police officers will be equipped with powers under the health order to move people on, should they be congregating in numbers that are unsafe,” he said.
Under the health order, groups of up to 50 people can gather outdoors in Greater Sydney, except on the northern beaches.
Households in the upper northern beaches can gather with five visitors from the local area at home or outside, over the two-day period. Those south of Narrabeen Bridge can gather with up to 10 people, also only from their local area.
Assistant Commissioner Willing said police were planning to issue more fines over a wedding at the weekend, attended by guests from the northern beaches in breach of current health orders.
Police were tipped off about the wedding at Doltone House in Pyrmont, where they issued 12 $1000 infringement notices, including to the bride and groom. More fines are still to come, he said.
In a statement the venue said it had complied with health orders and had been advised by the bride that she and her family had been staying outside the northern beaches to comply with the health order.
“Had we been aware that any of the information supplied to us by the couple was incorrect, we would have taken the necessary steps.”
Ms Berejiklian said she was “absolutely aghast” at the actions of the wedding party.
Lucy Cormack is a state political reporter with The
Sydney Morning Herald.
Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.