Australia

NT declares Sydney a coronavirus hotspot as Casula pub cluster grows to 34

A cleaner dressed in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is seen leaving the Crossroads Hotel in Sydney, Saturday, July 11, 2020 Source: AAP

As the number of COVID-19 cases linked to the Crossroads Hotel rises, the NT has announced it will keep border restrictions in place for people coming from Sydney.

The Northern Territory has declared all 30 local government areas in metropolitan Sydney coronavirus hotspots amid concerns about a cluster of cases in the harbour city's southwest.

The move, which means arrivals from affected areas will now face strict quarantine protocols when the NT's borders reopen on Friday, follows a meeting of the Security and Emergency Management Committee.

"We will declare all local government areas in greater metropolitan Sydney as hotspot areas for the purposes of travel to the Northern Territory," Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Wednesday.

"This means that from Friday, if there are any arrivals to the Territory from Sydney, or who have been in Sydney in the previous 14 days, they will be directed into mandatory supervised quarantine."

Similar arrangements are also in place for anyone travelling from Victoria.

Mr Gunner said the Territory's decision was not just based on the current situations in Victroria and Sydney, but on how bad things could get.

"This situation in Sydney has the potential to get worse before it gets better and we need to assume that it will get worse," he said.

"To open our borders to Sydney right now, when we don't know the full extent of this cluster, would be a roll of the dice.”

Sydney pub cluster gets bigger

The COVID-19 cluster from the Crossroads Hotel in Casula in Sydney's southwest continues to grow, with genomic testing indicating the virus strain emanated from Victoria.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says there are now 34 cases linked to the hotel, at least 20 of them patrons.

The state reported 13 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, with only three of them unconnected to the hotel.

Two of the 10 hotel-connected cases attended the Planet Fitness gym nearby, meaning three gym-goers have now come down with the virus.

"This highlights the rapidity with which COVID can spread, and the importance of us tracing the contacts very quickly," Dr Chant said on Wednesday.

"It's very important we don't lose sight that COVID could've been introduced in any other part of Sydney ... this is a stealthy virus."

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NSW Health also on Wednesday confirmed the "patient zero" of the outbreak was a Melbourne man who attended the Crossroads Hotel on 3 July.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro had earlier in the day confirmed genomic testing of the virus in Casula found links to a strain from Victoria, where hundreds of new COVID-19 cases are being reported each day.

Victoria recorded 238 new cases on Wednesday.

"It's not a virus which has been transmitted through the community because something has occurred here," Mr Barilaro told the Seven Network.

Both Mr Barilaro and Premier Gladys Berejiklian have this week said localised or statewide lockdowns were undesirable and options of last resort in NSW.

The intensive care capacity in NSW hospitals had almost quadrupled since the early stages of the pandemic, which has killed 51 people in the state to date.

NSW Health workers dressed in Personal Protective Equipment administer COVID-19 tests to people in their cars at the Crossroads Hotel testing centre in Sydney.
NSW Health workers dressed in Personal Protective Equipment administer COVID-19 tests to people in their cars at the Crossroads Hotel testing centre in Sydney.
AAP

Dr Chant also named a number of venues where confirmed COVID-19 cases spent time, including the YMCA at Revesby, Wests Leagues Club at Leumeah, Macarthur Tavern in Campbelltown and Casula Kmart.

A worker at Woolworths in Bowral has also tested positive to the virus and the store underwent deep cleaning on Tuesday night. The staff member worked at the store on 12 July and was asymptomatic at the time.

A southwest Sydney pizza restaurant, meanwhile, is closing for three days for deep cleaning after a customer tested positive for COVID-19.

Mancini's Original Woodfired Pizza at Belfield said NSW Health had deemed the case a low risk to staff as the male customer stayed within his group when he was there on Friday.

Police are working with Liquor and Gaming to investigate if the Crossroads Hotel breached any guidelines. All patrons of the hotel from 3 to 10 July must self-isolate and are being urged to get tested.

Ms Berejiklian also on Tuesday announced a tightening of restrictions for pubs and hotels, including a cap of 300 patrons and mandatory sign-ins. Those restrictions will come into effect from Friday.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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