New Zealand has paused quarantine-free travel with New South Wales and Victoria effectively shut its border to large parts of Sydney after NSW recorded 10 new locally acquired cases of coronavirus.
NSW Health subsequently said a confirmed case had flown from Sydney to Wellington on the night of Friday 18 June and from Wellington to Sydney on Monday morning.
“Passengers who flew on the flights at the times listed are considered close contacts and must immediately call NSW Health … get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday night.
The spike in local cases had earlier prompted the NSW government to extend the indoor mask mandate across greater Sydney in an attempt to curb the Bondi outbreak.
Masks will be required to be worn on public transport and indoors in Sydney for another week until midnight 30 June.
There are now 21 cases linked to the Bondi cluster, with all but two of the new cases already in isolation. Six are household contacts of previous cases.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said it wasn’t a surprise to see more cases emerge, and that she was expecting more household contacts to test positive in the coming days.
“The virus is not like other strains where it is less contagious.
“We expected, given how absolutely contagious the virus is, we expected that household contacts already in isolation were likely to get the virus.
“A very fleeting exchange or a very fleeting coexistence has actually allowed the virus to transfer and highlights how contagious it is.”
Authorities are most concerned about two cases not already in isolation: a school student at St Charles’ Catholic primary school in Waverley and a woman in her 20s who works at Bondi Junction Westfield.
The chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said the student’s test results only came in earlier on Tuesday, and the school was working with health officials to develop a plan for the children to go home.
“Please, parents, I know there may be a level of concern, the school and public health officials will communicate with you a safe plan for the students to go home and testing arrangements which are critical for us to understand the situation.
“We want to provide advice and a mechanism to get tested because we want to find out how this child was exposed and establish that because cases where we don’t understand the acquisition means we have mystery cases.
“And in this case, we don’t have preliminary information [on] a source for this child’s exposure so we are looking for an intermediate source.”
Chant said the other case of concern, the woman in her 20s, was likely exposed through “fleeting” contact with an infectious person.
Chant urged anyone who had been at Bondi Junction Westfield, including the car parks, at any time between 12 and 18 June, to get tested.
“We are casting the net very wide because you want to pick up any of these inadvertent transmissions. You can see how if we miss a case, over the next cycle of three days [to] a week, we have many cases coming from that single missed case.”
Berejiklian said that a lockdown was not being considered at the moment, with the extension of the mask mandate considered a “proportionate” response to the outbreak.
“At this stage because all but one case is linked to an existing case and that case was only discovered a few hours ago, that gives us a degree of confidence that what we have asked people to do matches the risk that is there at the moment.
“If that changes, if we suddenly have a number of unlinked cases and if we suddenly have them outside the geographic region they are concentrated in that will obviously adjust the health advice and we will respond to that.”
The extended mask mandate means it is now compulsory to wear a face mask while at public indoor venues in greater Sydney, excluding the Central Coast and Hunter region.
Those venues include retail, theatres and aged care facilities, while front-of-house hospitality workers must also wear masks.
NSW Health also announced the detection of Covid-19 viral fragments in the Brooklyn and Lough Park sewage treatment plants. The two plants cover a number of suburbs across Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and people in those areas are being advised to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they appear.
New Zealand announced a pause on its travel bubble with NSW in light of the new cases for an initial 72 hours from 11.59pm NZT Tuesday, stating that while the risk was still low there were “still several unknowns” and cited the unlinked case in a primary school student.
Late on Tuesday, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton Sutton declared seven Sydney local government areas red zones under Victoria’s travel permit system.
The move effectively banned residents from the municipalities of the City of Sydney, Waverley, Woollahra, Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick entering Victoria from 1am on Wednesday.
“If you enter at an airport or seaport from a red zone without a permit, you will be fined and will stay in hotel quarantine until return transport is arranged,” the health department said.
The Northern Territory declared the Woollahra and Waverley local government areas Covid-19 hotspots, meaning visitors from there will need to go into quarantine for 14 days from Tuesday evening.
In Queensland, one new locally acquired case was recorded. A man in his 60s tested positive after visiting the Portuguese Family Centre at Ellen Grove at the same time as a woman who tested positive on Sunday.
The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the man was already in home quarantine, and that authorities would be tracking everyone who attended the Portuguese Family Centre very closely.
“We are going to be making sure that we keep a really close eye on all of those people who went to that Portuguese Family Centre, and it’s very important that we monitor them because we don’t want them out in the community.”
The chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said the only concern was whether or not the man had been in the community on Sunday morning.
“That would be the only risk,” she said.
Palaszczuk also announced the state was opening its borders to Melbourne residents from Friday.
The premier said it was “great news” for Victorians amid uncertainty surrounding borders in the lead-up to the school holidays.
“I know there is a lot of people that would have had their holidays booked to Queensland, so Dr Young is comfortable with the way Victoria is at and we will keep a close eye on NSW.”
South Australia will also be reopening its borders to travellers from Melbourne on Friday, but arrivals will need to isolate until they get the results of a Covid test.
Travellers will be banned from attending high-risk locations, such as aged care homes and major events, including this week’s AFL match at Adelaide Oval.
With Australian Associated Press