NSW has reported three new cases of COVID-19 community transmission, all linked to western Sydney.
Two cases are under investigation after 32,000 people came forward for testing in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.
The third case is a close contact of another of the new cases.
The state government is urging western Sydney residents from Greystanes, Auburn, Berala and Lidcombe with even the mildest of symptoms to get tested.
The so-called Avalon cluster, which erupted earlier this month, remains at 144.
At the southern NSW border, Victorians are facing lengthy queues to cross into their home state after it imposed travel restrictions from midnight on Friday, with anyone arriving after that time having to spend a fortnight in quarantine.
It comes as NSW health authorities hope New Year’s Eve gatherings haven’t tipped a “volatile” COVID-19 situation in the state – particularly in Sydney’s northern beaches and inner west – over the edge.
NSW on Thursday reported 10 cases of community transmission of COVID-19, including five linked to Sydney’s northern beaches cluster.
Three of those new cases were connected to the nine-person Croydon cluster.
The growth in locally acquired COVID-19 cases in greater Sydney prompted the NSW government to limit home gatherings for New Year’s Eve to five visitors, down from 10, and outdoor gatherings to 30, down from 50.
Sydneysiders were mostly banned from watching the city’s New Year fireworks from the harbour, with the foreshore fenced off.
Authorities are also still investigating two COVID-19 cases involving a pair of women from the same household in Wollongong, on the NSW south coast.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant reiterated the threat of COVID-19 was ever- present, saying “we are never going back to normal”.
“COVID potentially will change our lives at all times and it may be something like the flu where we have to learn how to manage it with the tool of having a vaccine … for literally years to come,” Dr Chant said on Thursday.
New health alerts were also issued on Wednesday and Thursday for various venues in NSW that were frequented by COVID-positive people.
They include close-contact alerts for The Swallowed Anchor wine bar in Wollongong on December 19, Earlwood Bardwell Park RSL on December 28, two venues inside Bankstown Sports Club on December 28, and a hair salon and nail salon at Bass Hill on December 24.
Stay-at-home orders applying to northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge will continue until at least January 9. A lockdown for the peninsula’s southern zone will be in place until January 2.
Both Victoria and South Australia on Thursday also announced they would establish hard border arrangements with NSW, joining Western Australia.