Travel between WA and the Eastern States is under renewed threat after two new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed on Sydney’s northern beaches, on the same day a south-west Sydney man who drives international air crew to and from Sydney airport was confirmed as a case.
The three locally acquired cases end NSW’s 12-day streak with no local coronavirus transmission.
Health authorities do not yet know the source of the two northern beaches cases, a woman in her 60s and a man in his 70s who are close contacts of each other.
The cases were confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
NSW is undertaking contact tracing and urgent genome sequencing, with results expected in the next 24 to 48 hours.
NSW Health says no links have been identified to other known cases at this stage.
WA last week reopened its borders to NSW and Victoria, removing the 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers from those states.
Premier Mark McGowan — speaking earlier today, prior to news of the latest two cases — said he hadn’t ruled out reimposing hard border restrictions if further infections were detected in NSW.
“We’ll continue to monitor the situation,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“The controlled border we have in place with all other states allows us to put up a hard border immediately if we need to and if the advice comes back that we need to put up a hard border, then we will.”
Mr McGowan said it was good news that the infected man’s family members had tested negative.
“Obviously there’ll be further testing as to who else the driver may have been in contact with and we’ll make a further decision as soon as we get that advice,” he said.
“The chief health officer will work all that out and hopefully we’ll have advice in the coming days.”
Meanwhile NSW Authorities are warning anyone in the northern beaches area should monitor for even the mildest of symptoms and come forward for testing immediately if they appear.
The man and woman visited several venues while infectious.
People who attended the following venues at specific times are considered close contacts and must be tested and isolate for two weeks, even if they receive a negative result: Palm Beach female change rooms, Coast Palm Beach Cafe, and Avalon Bowlo on December 13, and Sneaky Grind Cafe at Avalon Bach on December 14.
Alerts have also been issued for Avalon Beach Woolworths and Oliver’s Pie at Avalon.
The other new case is a 45-year-old south-west Sydney man, who drives vans ferrying international air crew. The man was first symptomatic on Saturday but did not get tested until Tuesday afternoon.
He was confirmed virus-positive on Wednesday morning.
“(This) highlights what I was talking about last week when I said that the NSW government’s focus, as the virus seemed to be contained in terms of community transmission, our most exposed areas (were) principally around our borders,“ Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters.
“We may be an island, but we are not totally isolated from the pandemic that is raging across the world.”
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the man worked only with air crew members and was not involved in regular taxi services for the public. He wore a mask while working.
The other three members of his household have tested negative to COVID-19 but will self-isolate for 14 days.
A health alert has also been issued for a children’s football training session conducted by Forest Rangers FC in Peakhurst on the afternoon of December 11.
All adults in attendance at that time are casual COVID-19 contacts and should monitor for respiratory symptoms, seek testing and isolate until they get a negative result. Children should also get tested if they develop symptoms.
Mr Hazzard said at least 2000 international air crew members were touching down in Sydney each week, with turnarounds of up to 72 hours before flying out again.
While they did not have total liberty, air crew had more freedom of movement than returned travellers in hotel quarantine, who cannot leave their rooms.
Mr Hazzard said that if national cabinet did not establish a nationwide regime for arriving air crew, NSW may implement its own changes.
That would entail placing air crew in full hotel quarantine, but only until their next flight out of the country.
“Our inclination is to say to international air crews and airlines … crews coming in to NSW will be most likely to be required to quarantine in the same way as other international visitors,” Mr Hazzard said.
“We need to be cognisant of the need to work with the airlines to make sure their air crew are able to come in to NSW and Australia, but also to make sure they do it in a safe way.”
The COVID-positive case’s employer, Sydney Ground Transport in inner Sydney’s Alexandria, has ceased operations while contact tracing is underway. Its staff will also be tested for COVID-19.
One COVID-19 patient in NSW is currently in intensive care.