Coronavirus: 18 new cases in NSW

 

New South Wales has recorded 18 new cases of coronavirus in the past day - a worrying surge in numbers compared to recent days - and a new cluster has been declared.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian described an outbreak in Croydon in Sydney's inner-west as "concerning", with six cases recorded so far. There have also been a further two infections in Wollongong, 120km south of Sydney.

A series of mystery cases, the source of which can't be determined, continue to worry health authorities also.

Ms Berejiklian pleaded for anyone in the state with even the mildest of symptoms to come forward for testing in a bid to get on top of the outbreak.

She also announced an urgent tightening of restrictions for New Year's Eve across Greater Sydney.

"All households in Greater Sydney, that includes Wollongong, the Central Coast, and the Nepean and Blue Mountains, as well as the southern part of the Northern Beaches, so the southern zone of the Northern Beaches, will now be limited to five people per household on New Year's Eve," she said.

Tougher restrictions also apply to outdoor gatherings which have been reduced from 50 to just 30 people.

Wedding party fined

Police have issued fines to nine northern beaches residents after they were caught attending a wedding in Sydney's CBD.

Another three guests are expected to be fined $1000 each for violating COVID-19 rules by attending the reception, which is understood to have been held at Doltone House in Pyrmont on Sunday.

It comes as strict new restrictions for Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations are announced. 

There will be no crowds to festivities around Sydney Harbour this year, despite previous restrictions allowing frontline workers access to view the midnight fireworks via a permit system.

The tradition of camping out at vantage points around the city has also been banned, unless it's a council-run ticketed event.

"As you know, previously we'd allocated spots along the foreshore for front-line workers from across the state to be able to come and enjoy the fireworks," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said today.

"Unfortunately we're going have to cancel that. We think it's too much of a health risk having people from the regions and from Sydney and from broader regional areas congregate all in the CBD and the advice to date has to all of us be try to avoid the CBD and so on New Year's Eve."

New South Wales recorded five new locally-acquired cases of COVID in the 24 hours to 8:00pm. Four are linked to the Avalon cluster.

On Sunday, the state recorded seven new cases. The northern beaches cluster is now at 126.

Follow our live updates throughout the day.

Updates below are in order from latest to oldest

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More NSW hot spots identified

NSW Health has issued fresh warnings about a number of locations and public transport routes used by people with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The alert, sent to media after 6.30pm, urges those who visited the following venues to get tested and self-isolate if they have any symptoms:

  • Bondi Beach Woolworths on December 20 between 5-6pm
  • Edgecliff Coles on December 20 between 7-7.30pm
  • Kinokuniya bookstore on George St on December 20 between 3-3.45pm
  • David Jones on Castlereagh St on December 20 between 2.10-2.45pm
  • Uniqlo at MidCity on December 20 between 4-4.15pm

Public transport routes were also impacted. Anyone who travelled on the following bus routes should get tested and self-isolate:

  • Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach on December 21 from 7.30pm-7.45pm
  • Bondi Beach to Bondi Junction on December 22 from 9.45-10am
  • Bondi Beach to Taylor Square on December 23 from 9-10am
  • Taylor Square to Bondi Beach on December 23 from 10.40-11.30am

Affected train routes include:

  • North Shore line from North Sydney to Wynyard on December 16
  • North Shore line from Waitara to Wynyard on December 16
  • North Shore line from Wynyard to Waitara on December 16
  • North Shore line from Waitara to Wynyard on December 17
  • Redfern to Town Hall on December 21
  • Bondi Junction to Town Hall on December 22

Guests fined at Sydney wedding

NSW Police have fined nine northern beaches residents who attended a wedding in Sydney yesterday in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Officers were called to the wedding reception in Pyrmont, in the Sydney CBD, about 5pm and found more than a dozen guests were residents of the northern beaches region, which is under strict stay-at-home rules.

The wedding venue is understood to be Doltone House on the Sydney Harbour foreshore.

 

The wedding at Doltone House, Pyrmont. Picture: News Corp Australia
The wedding at Doltone House, Pyrmont. Picture: News Corp Australia

Nine people were issued with $1000 penalty infringement notices, including a man and woman, both aged 43, from Allambie Heights; a Narraweena woman, 33; a Frenchs Forest man, 27; three women, aged 19, 22 and 28, from Beacon Hill; and two men, aged 23 and 63, also from Beacon Hill.

Police expect to issue penalty infringement notices to three other people: a man, 34, and woman, 36, from Frenchs Forest, and a Beacon Hill man, 26.

Police investigations are continuing. Doltone House has been contacted for comment.

Three new cases in WA

There are three new cases of COVID-19 in Western Australia, all in hotel quarantine.

WA's Department of Health said the three cases - a man in his 40s, and two women in their 50s and 20s - were related to overseas travel.

The new cases bring the state's total to 858. There are 15 active cases in WA.

Tracking app for Tokyo Olympics visitors

Japan is set to introduce a tracking system for people who visit the country for the delayed Tokyo Olympics.

All international visitors will be required to download a tracking app on their mobile phones that will use GPS to help Japan's health authorities keep a lid on the spread of COVID-19.

"It needs to be mandatory in the sense of protecting one another," Japan's digital information minister Takuya Hirai said.

The Tokyo Olympics, which was meant to be held in 2020, is now scheduled to start on July 23 next year.

It comes as Japan halts entry to foreign arrivals who are not Japanese residents amid concerns over a surge in new infections.

The country will stop issuing visas from today until the end of January, according to the Japan Times.

SA reports one new case

South Australia has reported one new coronavirus case, in a returned traveller aged in his 30s who tested positive in hotel quarantine.

SA said the case is old but is now reflected in the state's numbers.

There are currently five active cases in SA and two people who are receiving treatment for COVID-19 in hospital.

Recap of the NYE rules for NSW

Here's a quick review of the rules for New Year's Eve for people in NSW.


Northern beaches (north zone): Five people allowed in one household, including children, on NYE only - but visitors must be from the north zone of the northern beaches. Outdoor gatherings of five people allowed until January 9.

Northern beaches (south zone): 10 people, including children, can gather in one household for NYE only, but guests must be from the south zone of the northern beaches. Gatherings of 10 people allowed outdoors until January 2.

Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Central Coast: No more than 10 people allowed in a residence, including children. Outdoor gatherings capped at 50, down from 100.

Parts of the Sydney CBD will be off-limits to visitors from 5pm on NYE, with key vantage points and other popular spots designated as "green zones" (off-limits to anyone except residents, their guests and NYE pass holders) and "yellow zones" (no permission needed to visit, but police may move on large crowds).

Green zone: Circular Quay, The Rocks, Royal Botanic Gardens, Bradfield Park, Lavender Bay, Blues Point, Kurraba Reserve and Cremorne Reserve.

Yellow zone: Encompasses North Sydney, Cremorne Point, Waverton, Pyrmont, Rushcutters Bay and Balmain East.

Council events can proceed if they follow COVID-19 rules.

Rest of NSW: 50 people allowed at household gatherings and up to 100 people at outdoor gatherings.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is urging people in the state to refrain from kissing and hugging during NYE celebrations.

Victoria's restrictions unchanged for NYE

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed there would be no changes to Victoria's restrictions for New Year's Eve.

Currently, 30 people are permitted at home gatherings, 50 people allowed on dancefloors and one patron per two square metres at hospitality venues.

It has already been confirmed that Melbourne City's fireworks display will not be going ahead.

"We know that the weather's going to be a little bit chillier this New Year's Eve. So we want to make sure that firstly, if you're not feeling well, stay home," Mr Foley said.

"If you're having people around your house, remember those COVIDsafe rules. No more than 30 at your private residence."

Mr Foley was confident Victorians would follow the rules, but added that there'd be a police presence.

"Victoria Police will be out about making sure that public venues are safe, and I would urge all Victorians to keep a COVIDsafe New Year's Eve and a COVID safe summer, so we can continue to progress with the impressive work we've done," he said.

Earlier today, the state government urged Victorians to avoid hugging and kissing as the clock strikes midnight on Thursday.

Victoria to keep borders closed to NSW

The Victorian Government has today confirmed the state will keep its border to NSW shut for New Year's Eve as new cases stem from the northern beaches cluster.

State Health Minister Martin Foley said borders would remain shut for the next week.

"It's certainly not going to be this week and we'll continue to take the advice of public health officials as to when that (reopening) will be the case," Mr Foley said.

"There is no chance of the borders reopening for New Year's Eve … we want to make sure those borders, particularly to the red zones of Sydney and the Central Coast, stay shut down."

New South Wales has recorded five new locally-acquired cases of COVID in the 24 hours to 8:00pm.

Four are linked to the Avalon cluster and one is linked to a previously-reported case whose source is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, two new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Victoria, both in international travellers in hotel quarantine.

Today is the 59th consecutive day of zero cases of community transmission.

Greg Hunt provides vaccine update

Federal health minister Greg Hunt says Australia's vaccine program "is on track and ahead of schedule" as NSW continues to battle its northern beaches cluster.

"The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is progressing well both in terms of results and in terms of its passage through the UK, US and European processes," Hunt said in a press conference in Melbourne today.

"They (AstraZeneca/Oxford University) have submitted additional data within Australia and we're expecting the final data for consideration in late January to February."

He added that analysis of the data supporting the Pfizer vaccine should be completed around the same time.

"Our Pfizer contract has been completed with the confirmation of distribution to Australia also locked in over the course of Christmas," he said.

Elsewhere in the press conference, he predicted a "safe and healthy" 2021.

"I would put it this way, the advice from AstraZeneca is of great hope for Australians, and the advice from the regulators is of great hope, regarding both the early vaccines, Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

"In short, I think it will be a good new year for Australians."

At this stage, the vaccine will start to be rolled out in March.

"We'll stick by our March time frame, our goal is always underpromise, overdeliver, and we expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October," Mr Hunt said today.

The vaccine will be free, and entirely voluntary.

"We would like to see as many Australians as possible be vaccinated, but in order to do that, they have to have the confidence that our regulators are making sure that every safety step is taken, and we're ticking all of those boxes just a little bit earlier than expected," he said.

Calls for hotel upgrades after WA woman's escape

A top doctor in WA has called for a more "humane" quarantine system after a woman fled her hotel room.

Jenny Maree D'ubios, who described her experience as "traumatic", hadn't completed mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving from overseas when she was found by police.

She was located at Rockingham hospital overnight and charged with failing to comply with a direction under the Emergency Management Act.

WA's acting premier, Roger Cook, said D'ubios had since returned a negative Covid-19 test result.

It comes after D'ubios said she wanted a "non-toxic safe place to quarantine" on Facebook, while also making several conspiracy theory claims.

Following her social media plea, the Australian Medical Association WA president, Dr Andrew Miller, said the hotel quarantine system needed to be more "humane", with fresh air available to prevent people from trying to flee.

"We know there are going to be uncooperative people, we know mistakes are going to be made, but in my job we have to have systems in place that make up for that, otherwise people die," he said.

D'ubios was refused bail in Perth magistrates court on Sunday.

No kissing when the clock strikes midnight

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has asked NSW residents to exercise "absolute restraint" on Thursday, banning the tradition of kissing to ring in the New Year.

"When the clock ticks over to midnight from 31 December to 1 January, I know that's normally an emotional time where we like to kiss and hug everybody around us. Can I ask for absolute restraint," Ms Berejiklian said.

'Police will be out in force'

When asked about the house party broken up in North Bondi over the weekend and the chance NYE will see more rule flouters, Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned that police presence would be ramped up for the night.

"Nothing we do is a snap decision," Ms Berejiklian said when asked if such parties would result in restrictions being tightened again.

"Can I say everything we do is considered. But those visuals that we saw were people doing the wrong thing and police will be out fining in force."

"We never want to use that as our first option, but people should expect police to be out there in force and I think all of us have had a gutful of people doing the wrong thing."

She concluded: "The vast majority are doing the right thing."

NSW restrictions explained

Here's what you need to know for your NYE plans:

Foreshore fireworks viewing banned

Areas that are not ticketed events around the Sydney Harbour foreshore will be barred on New Year's Eve for fireworks viewing.

Despite families packing out parklands around the harbour in previous years, on Thursday, it will not be allowed.

"The only way you'll be allowed to access those commonly frequented foreshore venues is if there is a formal event or formal level of consideration provided by the local council," Gladys Berejiklian said today.

"So if the local council deems it appropriate to have a ticketed, seated, controlled event, you'll be allowed to participate in that. But you cannot just, unfortunately, pick up and go along to those frequently attended venues.

"Our strong advice to families and communities is we cannot have people congregate in those large numbers we normally see along those foreshore areas."

Ms Berejiklian also announced today that Sydney's annual fireworks display will be a crowd-less affair this year, despite previous restrictions allowing frontline workers access to viewing points via permit.

"As you know, previously we'd allocated spots along the foreshore for front-line workers from across the state to be able to come and enjoy the fireworks," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said today.

"Unfortunately we're going have to cancel that. We think it's too much of a health risk having people from the regions and from Sydney and from broader regional areas congregate all in the CBD and the advice to date has to all of us be try to avoid the CBD."

Permit required for all CBD hospitality venues

Anyone with a booking at a Sydney CBD venue will require a permit from NSW Health to attend venues.

"You cannot come to the CBD on New Year's Eve unless you have a booking from a hospitality venue, but even if you have a booking, you have to get a permit through Service New South Wales to prove you got that booking," Gladys Berejiklian said today.

All hospitality venues will be subject to the 4 square metre rule.

"We apologise that we have to be so strict, but this is to keep everybody safe.

"You can't just because you feel like it jump on a bus or a train and come to the CBD on New Year's Eve. That's not the go," Ms Berejiklian said.

New Year's Eve restrictions for NSW

NSW Man, 70, dies from coronavirus

NSW Health has revealed a man in his 70s died earlier this week from respiratory complications following a COVID-19 infection diagnosed in March.

He was a household contact of a locally acquired case.

According to a media release shared today, he had recently tested negative to the virus and was no longer infectious.

The statement said:
"Although his death is considered to be related to Covid-19, he had recently tested negative, was no longer infectious and posed no risk to the community. NSW Health extends its sympathies to his family."

Dr Kerry Chant followed up: "This was a gentleman in his 70s who died on 21 December from respiratory complications following a COVID
infection diagnosed in March.

"He was a household contact for locally-acquired case and although his death is considered to be related to COVID, so that's based on the doctors completing a death certificate as to the cause of death, he had recently tested negative and was no longer infectious and posed no risk to the community."

She continued: "I think this highlights the fact that sometimes the complications can be so severe that the lung damage and other complications arising from COVID, that that can subsequently be the cause of death many months later."

There have been a total of 56 deaths from the coronavirus in NSW since the start of the pandemic

Meanwhile, there were 15,364 tests reported to 8pm last night, compared with the previous day's total of 23,933.

New South Wales has recorded five new locally-acquired cases of COVID in the 24 hours to 8:00pm.


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