As the day unfolded: NSW records 18 local cases, six linked to Croydon cluster; Victoria’s two-month streak ends with three new cases

Summary

  • NSW recorded 18 local COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including three announced yesterday. Of the 18, nine are linked to the Avalon cluster, six are from a new Croydon cluster and three remain under investigation.
  • From midnight tonight until further notice, households gatherings will be limited to five guests in greater Sydney, Wollongong, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains. 
  • New venues visited by confirmed cases of COVID-19 include the Santa Claus Photo Booth at Westfield Burwood, Bankstown Sports Club, a Circular Quay bar, an outdoor cinema, churches in Wollongong, and shopping centres in Figtree, Shellharbour and Mona Vale.
  • Sydneysiders will be restricted from visiting aged care facilities until at least 11.59pm on January 6. 
  • Three new local Victorian cases have been confirmed ending the state’s two month run of no local cases.  They believed to be linked to the NSW outbreak via close contacts and were found in the east of metropolitan Melbourne.

Victoria's two-month streak with no local cases ends

Three people in Melbourne have been diagnosed with COVID-19, ending the state’s two-month streak of zero locally-acquired cases.

The infections, confirmed by the Andrews government late on Wednesday afternoon, came as the state government tightened border controls with NSW after 18 new cases were confirmed in Sydney, including some linked to a new cluster.

Shoppers in Bourke Street Mall on Boxing Day 2020. Credit:Paul Jeffers

The three local cases recorded in Melbourne on Wednesday are believed to be linked to COVID-19 cases from NSW.

The COVID-positive Victorians have not recently travelled to NSW but the state government confirmed that health authorities believed they were connected with cases north of the border through close contacts.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned that New Year’s Eve could be a super-spreader event if people are not vigilant.Credit:Jessica Hromas

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said authorities were struggling to pin down the source of the new cluster and expected more cases would be detected in coming days.

Fearful that New Year's Eve activities will spread the virus further, the government announced a reduction in the number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings from 50 to 30.

Senior ministers are concerned that people will instead host parties at home, with one warning that "it will be impossible to police how many people are inside homes".

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new restrictions were in place "until further notice".

Read more here.

More new venues visited by people with COVID-19

New venues visited by confirmed cases of COVID-19 include Costco Lidcombe, Bunnings Lidcombe, BWS Bass Hill, Rhodes Priceline Pharmacy, Earlwood Bardwell Park RSL as well as Auburn BCF (Boating Fishing Camping).

Anyone who attended the following venues at the listed times must get tested immediately and self-isolate until they receive further advice from NSW Health:

Earlwood Bardwell Park RSL, 18 Hartill-Law Avenue, Bardwell Park 2207, Monday 28 December, 6pm-11.30pm

Anyone who visited any of the following venues at the listed times is considered a casual contact who must get tested immediately and isolate until a negative result is received:

Rhodes Priceline Pharmacy, Rhodes Waterside, 1 Rider Boulevard, Thursday 24 December 9am-12pm

BWS Bass Hill, Bass Hill Plaza, 753 Hume Highway, Bass Hill, Thursday 24 December 1:10pm-1:30pm

Anyone who visited any of the following venues at the listed times should monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately and isolate if they appear:

Martin Reserve, Croydon Park, Seymour St, Croydon Park NSW 2133, Sunday 27 December 12pm-12.40pm

Costco Lidcombe, 17-21 Parramatta Rd, Lidcombe NSW 2141, Thursday 24 December, 10am-10:20am and between 4:20pm-4:45pm

Bunnings Lidcombe, 23-29 Parramatta Rd, Lidcombe NSW 2141, Thursday 24 December. 4pm-4:20pm

Auburn BCF (Boating Fishing Camping) Cnr Parramatta Rd and Rawson St, Auburn NSW 2144, Wednesday 23 December, 10:15am-10:45am

There are more than 350 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW, many of which are open seven days a week. To find your nearest clinic visit, visit https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/how-to-protect-yourself-and-others/clinics or contact your GP.

Open-air cinema at Mrs Macquarie's Chair has canned its screenings

The open-air cinema at Mrs Macquarie's Chair has canned its screenings on January 1, 2 and 3, moving them to dates in early February.

Movie-goers at the Open Air Cinema at Mrs MacQuaries Chair last year.Credit:Nic Walker

Westpac OpenAir advised ticket holders today that "in line with the current restrictions to limit activity and refrain from any non-essential activity for Greater Sydney", they've decided to postpone screenings of The Dry, originally scheduled for Friday, January 1, Saturday, January 2 and Sunday, January 3, 2021.

Victoria exposure site list for new cases

The Victorian Health Department released a list of exposure sites the new confirmed local cases of COVID-19 have visited.

People who were at these places should immediately be tested.

  • Mentone/Parkdale Beach on the 27th of December between, 10:00 – 16:30
  • Century City Walk and Mocha Jo’s in Glen Waverley on the 28th of December, between 13:30 – 17:00
  • Katialo restaurant in the Eaton Mall in Oakleigh on the 28th of December, between19:00-20:15

Victoria’s Commander of COVID-19 response Jeroen Weimar said the active cases were isolated at home while being monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We have been in this position before and we are deploying our full outbreak approach around these cases. Extensive contact tracing is underway and as a result, there are currently more than 40 primary close contacts that are being supported to isolate immediately,” Mr Weimar said.

Two women in their 40s and a woman in her 70s have been identified as the newly infected people.

Mr Weimar said that contact tracing is ongoing overnight with more close contacts expected to emerge.

“At this point, our priority is on making sure we’ve got the right supports in place for the close contacts (primary and secondary) and that people are getting themselves tested," Mr Weimar said.

“We are so thankful that these people did the right thing and got tested. We always knew this virus had us in a precarious position and we need to make sure we do everything we can to stamp out any further transmissions.

“Now more than ever people should not let down their guard. Maintain physical distancing, practice good hand hygiene. Stay at home if you’re unwell and most of all get tested if you have any symptoms at all.”

Epidemiologists: New Victorian cases may be from NSW Christmas travel

Leading epidemiologists have suggested the likely origin of Victoria’s fresh coronavirus cases came from people travelling from NSW to celebrate Christmas in Victoria.

Assuming that the people who have tested positive were tested as soon as they became symptomatic, the timeline matches up closely to spreading events occurring on Christmas Day.

Professor Raina MacIntyre urges caution over Christmas and NYE. Credit:James Brickwood

Head of the Biosecurity Research Program at the Kirby Institute at the UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre said people who got infected on Christmas Day will be at their most infectious on New Year's Eve.

“My guess is someone that travelled over the border for Christmas infected someone and I’d suspect that people who got infected on Christmas Day are starting to present today,” Professor MacIntyre said.

“Those people who got infected on Christmas Day might not know they are infectious.”
Professor MacIntrye also said other states need to be very vigilant for cases coming up given people from NSW travelled throughout Australia to celebrate Christmas.

She added that the Andrews government should consider reintroducing some restrictions to prevent a fresh outbreak.

Chair in epidemiology at Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett said the role of contract tracing will play is “crucial” to contain a fresh outbreak of the disease.

"The role of contact tracing is critical – if these people were exposed a week ago, firstly finding their close contacts, if you find them in the next few days before they become infectious it’s a massive difference,” Professor Bennett said.

“The key question is if these people don’t have a direct contact with Sydney, how did they get it?”

Director of the Population Interventions Unit at the University of Melbourne Professor Tony Blakely said while not much is known about the fresh cases are “problematic”.

“It’s going to be contact tracing like crazy, testing like crazy in the areas these people have been in, and a lot of people potentially isolating,” Professor Blakely said.

Interactive: Sydney coronavirus venue alert locations mapped

Sydneysiders looking to find out whether they have been to a venue recently visited by someone later diagnosed with coronavirus can now do so more easily thanks to a new service that overlays alert locations onto a map.

The website covid19nearme.com.au was built by a Sydney data expert and uses information provided by the NSW government’s COVID-19 data program to visualise a long list of venue alerts put out sometimes multiple times per day by NSW Health.

The map, embedded below, doesn't include public transport routes. They can be found on the NSW government's official list of locations at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/latest-news-and-updates#latest-covid-19-case-locations-in-nsw.

Interact with the venue alert map:

There are more than 350 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW, many of which are open seven days a week. To find your nearest clinic, visit https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/how-to-protect-yourself-and-others/clinics or contact your GP.

Britain approves AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine

London: Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca as it battles a major winter surge driven by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus.

"The government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use," the health ministry said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is considered the best chance for developing countries, as it does not need to be stored at extreme temperatures. Credit:University of Oxford

The pandemic has already killed 1.7 million people around the world, sown chaos through the global economy and upended normal life for billions since it began in Wuhan, China, a year ago.

Britain and South Africa, in particular, are grappling with new variants of the coronavirus, which the government and scientists say are more contagious; many countries have responded by banning passenger flights and blocking trade.

Read more here.

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