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Sydney lockdown push as Delta variant cluster grows

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NSW is on high alert over Sydney’s growing outbreak of the highly-contagious Delta variant of Covid-19, with calls for a snap lockdown if infections continue to rise.

There were four new cases announced in Monday’s numbers, bringing the total number of infections in the cluster to 11.

Of those cases, two were announced yesterday morning and two others were recorded after the official reporting period. The latter cases will be included in tomorrow’s numbers.

The two cases announced on Sunday are a woman and a man in their 50s from the Sutherland Shire. Both are close contacts of a previously reported case and have been in isolation.

The other cases include woman in her 50s from Sydney’s northern suburbs and a man in his 30s from the eastern suburbs. Both are close contacts of known cases and have been in isolation.

There were more than 25,000 tests conducted yesterday, with NSW Health urging more people to come forward for testing, adding it was “vital” in preventing further transmission.

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There are already a series of restrictions regarding masks in place across Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour, but one expert has warned tougher rules may be necessary to contain the outbreak.

Epidemiologist and World Health Organisation adviser, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, told ABC radio NSW needs to take this outbreak of the Delta variant “very seriously”.

She said if there are anymore than “one or two” new locally acquired cases then officials should seriously consider imposing a three-day lockdown.

“If the numbers go up any further we should really be thinking about a three-day lockdown,” she said.

Professor McLaws also said masks should be made mandatory in all public areas for Greater Sydney.

Premier won’t rule out tougher restrictions

Speaking on Sunday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said saying while authorities don’t want to extend restrictions, they will if they have to.

“At this stage, we didn’t want to make the decision to have compulsory mask wearing across all greater Sydney, but if the situation changes overnight, that is an option we will have to consider,” she said.

“The strongest message I want to send our community is we worked on the basis of trust, that we won’t impose any burdens on communities unless we absolutely have to. At this stage, given the number of cases and the risk, we feel [what] we are doing is appropriate.”

Ms Berejiklian said the next few days would be critical for NSW, saying any further restrictions “will depend on what cases, if any, emerge in the next few days”.

She urged people with even the slightest symptoms to get tested so authorities can track down any underlying chains of transmission.

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“We know everybody is tired. All of us are. We have to keep doing the right thing until we get the vaccine to majority of our population. This is what we have to live with,” the Premier said.

“What we’ve asked people to do today is as far as we will go, but I will say that if cases continue to emerge in the community we will need to consider going further, but I hope that isn’t the case. I hope in the next few days things settle down, and we don’t have to go further.”

A number of changes to mask restrictions kicked in at 4pm on Sunday, including the requirement for masks on public transport being extended to include Wollongong and Shellharbour.

Previously this restriction only applied to Greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains but was extended after a confirmed case spent time in Wollongong.

Masks are now also mandatory in indoor premises for certain local government areas, including Bayside, Canada Bay, Sydney, Randwick, Inner West, Waverley and Woollahra.

These indoor venues include retail and business premises that provides goods and services to the public, gaming rooms, entertainment facilities, places of worship, residential aged care facilities (but not for residents), and for front end staff at hospitality venues.

Penalties of $200 apply for defying mask restrictions.

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Authorities racing to avoid ‘superspreader event’

The new mask mandates were brought in to help avoid a “superspreader event” that could see cases explode across Sydney and surrounding areas.

“As we heard in previous days, on a few occasions it has been a fleeting exchange [that has led to infection] we know this is extremely contagious and some people are spreading it more than others,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“And what we want to avoid at this stage is a superspreader event. With this current outbreak, we have not experienced a superspreader event. That is what we want to prevent.”

Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said at the moment everything appeared to be linked and can be explained, but stressed the importance of high testing rates.

She called on Sydneysiders to “stress our labs to the ultimate of their testing capacity”, saying “the quicker we can diagnose cases, the quicker we can get ahead of the transmission of this virus”.

The highly-contagious nature of the Delta variant has put authorities on high alert, with the virus appearing to pass through fleeting contact.

CCTV footage showed a man in his 50s caught the virus after merely passing through the “airspace” of the limousine driver, who is at the centre of the latest outbreak, in Myer at Westfield Bondi Junction.

“The gentleman in his 50s, was no more than seconds in the near vicinity of the limousine driver,” health minister Brad Hazzard said over the weekend.

“It would appear he was somewhere in the range of between 10 and, possibly, 50-60 centimetres away in a passing situation.

“Each of them had stood not far away from each other for a very short period of time and then it would appear that one of them possibly moved through the airspace that the other one had occupied.”

Mr Hazzard called on anyone who visited Westfield Bondi Junction during the times stated on NSW Health’s website to get tested even if they were not in one of the specific stores or sites mentioned.

Sydney’s Covid-19 exposure list grows

The list of venues visited by known Covid-19 cases is growing rapidly and now includes suburbs in the west as well as in the Illawarra region.

There are now exposure sites across Leichhardt, Drummoyne, Castle Hill, Fairy Meadow in the Illawarra, Merrylands and Campbelltown.

Anyone who visited the following venues at the times listed below is considered a close contact of a covid case and must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days from your visit, even if a negative result is received.

Barangaroo: David Jones Bondi on June 12 from 10.55am-11.15am

Bondi Junction: California Nails, Tower Two, International Towers Sydney, on June 16 from 4.45pm-5.30pm; Harry’s Coffee Kitchen on June 15 from 3.10pm-3.55pm, Meyer Bondi on June 12 from 11.15am-11.50am; Tea Gardens Hotel on June 13 from 5pm-5.15pm; Sourdough Bakery on June 11 from 12.35pm-12-50pm; David Jones on June 15 from 3.55pm-4.15pm; Event Cinemas on June 13 from 1.30pm-4pm

Drummoyne, Birkenhead Point Brand Outlet: Country Road on June 15 from 12.30pm-1pm; Seed on June 15 from 12.30pm-1pm; Nike on June 15 from 12.50pm-1.15pm; North Face on June 15 from 11.35am-11.50am

Fairy Meadow: The Broken Drum Cafe on June 18 from 9.55am-10.05am

Newtown: Adora Handmake Chocolates on June 13 from 2pm-3pm

North Ryde: Cemetary Cafe Macquarie Park on June 15 from 1pm-1.20pm

Northmead: Northmead Bowling Club on June 13 from 3.30pm-10.15pm

Redfern: The Twisted Olive on June 13 from 12.50pm-1.20pm; Wax Car Wash Cafe on June 14 from 12.25pm-1.10pm

Shellharbour: Baby Bunting on June 18 from 4.30pm-5.15pm

Sydney: Fitness First Pitt St Platinum on June 16 from 12.15pm-1.30pm; Fitness First Bond St Platinum on June 17 from 3.10pm-4.30pm

Tempe: Salvos Stores on June 16 from 9am-10.30am and 2.15pm-2.45pm

Vaucluse: Rocco’s on June 14 from 10.55am-11.30am; Belle Cafe on June 11 from 9.15am-9.50am, June 12 from 10.20am-10.45am and 1.20pm-1.50pm, June 13 from 11.30am-12pm, June 15 from 9.50am-10.25am; Washoku Vaucluse on June 12 from 12pm-1.30pm

There are also multiple casual contact venues list on the NSW Health website, with the full list found here.

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