Sydney has avoided further restrictions to social gatherings for now despite the northern beaches COVID-19 outbreak growing to 83 cases overnight.
With 38,000 tests conducted in Sydney over the past 24 hours, just 15 new community-transmission cases were reported. All of these cases are linked to the northern beaches cluster.
An additional eight cases were recorded in relation to returned travellers who are in hotel quarantine, including two travellers from the UK who NSW health authorities say have the new COVID mutation which is reported to be highly infectious.
"Every single case (of community transmission) we've had to date has been linked to the Avalon cluster, and that's how we want to keep it," says NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
As a result, the NSW Government has not introduced any new restrictions as Sydney residents are now subject to a total shutdown from the rest of Australia from midnight last night.
Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will require anyone entering their states from greater Sydney after midnight to now enter hotel quarantine. The cut-off for Queensland was 1am this morning, while Victoria also includes residents from the NSW central coast.
Berejiklian this morning offered a veiled criticism of the interstate restrictions imposed on Sydney residents and returning travellers. She argues that the only state NSW has ever closed its borders to during COVID this year has been Victoria during its second wave when cases exceeded 140.
"I use that to put that into perspective," Berejiklian says. "Of course, I am concerned but every response has to be proportional to the risk. Let's all of us make our decision on the facts. It's a very emotional time of the year and please ensure your response is proportional."
The premier also argues that NSW is carrying the load of international arrivals currently in hotel quarantine and preparing to be repatriated with family and friends interstate. She says it is a time to show "compassion" at this time of year.
Meanwhile, Greater Sydney residents were met with a previously announced round of restrictions from midnight last night. These include:
- A temporary limit of 10 visitors in household gatherings until 11.59pm on 23 December
- A one person per four square metre rule for all indoor settings, including hospitality venues and places of worship
- A cap of 300 people for hospitality venues and places of worship.
- Restrictions to singing in indoor venues, returning to a maximum of five performers indoors, provided they are 1.5 metres from one another and at least 5 metres from the audience who are not allowed to sing along
- Dancefloors will not be permitted, except for weddings, when a maximum of 20 from the wedding party will be permitted.
'Greater Sydney' comprises the following local government areas: Bayside, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Burwood, Camden, Campbelltown, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Central Coast, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Liverpool, Mosman, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Parramatta, Penrith, Randwick, Ryde, Strathfield, Sutherland Shire, Sydney, The Hills Shire, Waverley, Willoughby, Wollondilly, Wollongong and Woollahra.
People in Greater Sydney are also urged not to visit residential aged care facilities, disability services or vulnerable people unless it is critical. This advice will be re-assessed on Wednesday 23 December.
They are also advised to wear masks in indoor settings such as shops and hospitality venues, in line with advice already issued to those in the Northern Beaches.
'Stay at home' orders in place for residents of the Northern Beaches local government area (LGA) will also continue until 11.59pm on Wednesday 23 December to control the spread of COVID-19. Further clear advice will be provided to the community before Christmas.
All residents of the Northern Beaches LGA are required to stay at home, unless permitted to leave for certain reasons, under the Public Health Order issued on Saturday 19 December.
Acceptable reasons for leaving home include shopping for food and other essential goods and services; travelling to work or an educational institution if working or studying from home is not possible; exercising; seeking medical care; providing carer's responsibilities and meeting compassionate needs. It is strongly recommended masks are worn when leaving isolation for these permitted reasons.
Any residents of the Northern Beaches LGA who left the area on or since Thursday 10 December 2020 must comply with the same restrictions that apply to the Northern Beaches, regardless of their current location.
Non-residents who have visited the Northern Beaches on or after Thursday 10 December should monitor closely for symptoms and get tested if any appear, no matter how mild. Anyone who visited the Northern Beaches since 10 December is also urged to check the NSW Government website for locations visited by confirmed cases and follow the associated health advice for the relevant venues if they have visited any of them.
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