NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the advice meant people in the area should stay at home, adding she was “open to all options” to control the spread, with recommendations for further restrictions not ruled out.
Genome sequencing of cases identified in the Avalon cluster confirmed overnight that it does not match any virus strains in recent Australian clusters and is a very close match to the virus in a woman in hotel quarantine who flew in from overseas on December 1.
“At this point, genomic sequencing shows it is linked back to the United States,” Minister Hunt said, but added more work was being done on the “disease detective study”.
More cases are expected over the course of the afternoon and Minister Hunt said Commonwealth support was about “getting ahead of rather than responding to” likely growth in the outbreak.
Dr Chant said one of the 28 cases linked to the northern beaches cluster would be included in Queensland’s numbers.
The woman attended Avalon Beach RSL on December 11 and was in Queensland when she received the call from NSW Health that she needed to be tested for coronavirus.
The woman then contacted Queensland officials, was tested and drove back to NSW, Dr Chant said.
Speaking later on Friday morning, Queensland Chief Health Office Jeannette Young said the woman visited a pub in Brisbane’s south and drove to the Sunshine Coast before heading back to her home state.
She arrived in Queensland on Sydney-to-Brisbane flight VA925 on Wednesday and visited the Glen Hotel in Eight Mile Plains, in Brisbane’s south, after 11.30am on that day. Contact tracing has begun, Dr Young said.
Eight people in the cluster attended the Avalon Beach RSL on December 11 and 16 attended the Avalon Bowlo on December 13. Two people attended both of these venues on those dates.
Dr Chant said people who were at the venues on these dates should have been contacted by NSW Health, and it was essential they come forward for testing and self-isolated.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard, a northern beaches resident who has tested negative to COVID-19, said the outbreak was “an important reminder that we need to take care” during the pandemic.
“We just need everybody to be aware complacency just cannot continue,” he said. “Young people might think they’re immortal – you’re not.”
Long lines for testing
NSW Health is discouraging unnecessary travel to and from the area. There were long lines at northern beaches and north shore hospitals on Friday morning as locals queued to be tested.
One of the cases reported on Thursday evening was a pharmacy worker who worked at several Ramsay Health Care-operated hospitals on the north shore.
The person worked shifts at North Shore Private Hospital, Castlecrag Private Hospital, Hunters Hill Private Hospital, Northside Cremorne Clinic and Ramsay Pharmacy North Shore.
Victoria closed to beaches residents
On Friday, the Victorian government urged against travel to Sydney, announcing compulsory 14 days of hotel quarantine for people who had been on the northern beaches
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said a travel permit system would be introduced on Friday night. People from other areas of Sydney would be encouraged to get tested on arrival in Victoria and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
It came after a number of travel restrictions were imposed by other states on Thursday night.
People who have been in the northern beaches region since December 11 and travel to Queensland will need to self-quarantine for 14 days from their departure from the area. Those arriving in Queensland after 1am on Saturday will be required to pay for hotel quarantine.
People travelling from NSW to Western Australia from Friday will need to complete a 14-day self-quarantine period as well as be tested.
Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory imposed the same requirement for people who had been in the northern beaches region. South Australia imposed it for people who visited venues identified by NSW Health as of concern.
Airport driver’s infection acquired overseas
Dr Chant said no further cases had been linked to a private bus driver who tested positive earlier this week. The driver is not linked to the northern beaches outbreak.
“The genome sequencing has determined the strain that gentleman acquired was most likely a US strain,” she said.
From Tuesday, international airline crew arriving in NSW will be placed in two designated quarantine hotels, rather than spread across “25 or 26” locations, Ms Berejiklian said.
The quarantine of airline crew would be managed by NSW Police and NSW Health, she said.
Mary Ward is a health reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.