Wednesday’s eight cases in NSW, with seven already linked to the northern beaches cluster, followed nine cases on Tuesday. Ms Berejiklian said case numbers were “trending in the right direction”. Wednesday’s eighth case was a Qantas flight crew member who flew from Sydney to Darwin on December 18.
Mr Weimar’s comments will dash any final hopes of Victorians linking up with Sydneysiders for festive plans, although regional NSW remains a “green zone” with free travel into Victoria.
He revealed 35 people have been detained in Victoria’s hotel quarantine over the past five days after flying into Melbourne Airport from NSW “red zones”, despite Victorian authorities asking airlines to check passenger permits before they board planes in Sydney.
“No system at their end is foolproof but we are catching people at our end. Every single flight is being met by our authorised officers,” Mr Weimar said.
Ms Berejiklian announced a very slight easing of restrictions for greater Sydney on Wednesday whereby children under 12 will be allowed at home gatherings in addition to the limit of 10 people. The upper section of Sydney’s northern beaches, where the outbreak began on Thursday and has largely remained contained, will also be separated from the rest of the city under stay-at-home orders.
NSW Health has identified 140 exposures sites, many outside the northern beaches, and Mr Weimar said Victoria would be analysing the Sydney outbreak every day before reopening the border.
“I’m not going to speculate on the timing. It depends on are there more exposure sites being identified? Are there more individuals coming forward who have been close or secondary close contacts? It’ll depend on a number of those variables, so we’ll watching this very closely,” he said.
Virus experts have told The Age that Victoria should consider reopening its border to Sydneysiders before New Year’s Eve if the number of new coronavirus cases in NSW continues to fall, but any move to relax restrictions by Christmas would come too soon.
Mr Weimar said people were being turned back regularly at the NSW-Victoria border, where 700 Victoria Police officers are patrolling checkpoints.
“I also would like to apologise for everybody who continues to travel across the border for legitimate reasons, who is I’m sure being caught up in some delays,” he said.
Mr Weimar said 4296 Victorians from the Greater Sydney and Central Coast areas had applied for a permit to leave NSW on Monday, meaning they could return home but had to enter 14 days of self-isolation at home.
“We are now following them up to ensure that all of them got tested,” Mr Weimar said.
Victoria recorded one new case of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine on Wednesday, but there were no new locally acquired cases.
It brings the total number of active coronavirus cases in the state to 10, after 22,956 tests were processed on Tuesday. There have been no cases of community transmission in Victoria for 54 days.
Mr Weimar also confirmed that all close contacts of a 15-year-old Melbourne girl who tested positive to COVID-19 on Monday have returned negative results.
It comes after confirmation on Tuesday night that all secondary contacts of the girl (contacts of close contacts) were released from isolation after returning negative COVID tests.
The girl, who lives in the Moonee Valley Local Government Area in Melbourne, travelled home with her family from Sydney’s northern beaches by car last Friday. She was tested on Sunday and returned a positive result on Monday.
The Victorian Department of Health has confirmed that after checking the family’s phone data, there have been no exposure sites in Victoria linked to the girl as the family did not stop in Victoria on their drive home, and the girl did not leave the house before getting tested.
Mr Weimar said the teenager and her close contacts will all remain in isolation for 14 days.
“We have a lot of support in place for that family and again, I thank them for the excellent work they’ve done in getting tested early on and isolating so effectively,” he said.
The girl has been tested twice, ruling out a false-positive result.
Mr Weimar said the girl was asymptomatic until yesterday when she first began to show symptoms, a day after her positive result.
Victoria has tested about 20,000 people who have returned from Sydney over the past few days, according to Mr Weimar.
While all 99 cases in NSW since Thursday have been linked to a known source, it emerged on Tuesday that the virus had been transmitted between two diners on Tuesday, December 15, at a pub in Sydney’s inner west – about 25 kilometres south of the northern beaches where the outbreak began.
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.
Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.