NSW has reported 10 cases of community transmission of coronavirus as the inner west cluster grows from a mystery source.
Of those five were linked to Sydney’s northern beaches cluster, after almost 28,000 tests conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday.
The so-called Avalon cluster, which erupted earlier this month, now totals 144.
Three of the 10 COVID-19 cases are linked to the Croydon cluster in Sydney’s inner west, and the source of this infection is still under investigation.
A total of nine people are now associated with this hot spot after six infected persons from the same extended family were detected on Wednesday.
Of the two other cases reported on Thursday, one is a close contact of a previously reported infected patient transport driver and the other is from western Sydney and the source is under investigation.
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.
Hundreds of people have been tested for the virus in the city and the government expects to have a clearer picture of any spread in the next 24 to 48 hours.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was pleased to the number of cases fall to 10 from 18 the day before.
“So pleasingly, we have seen the numbers go down today but it’s very volatile,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“They’re going to bounce around.
“What is really important is for all of us to do everything we can to reduce our mobility, to reduce the number of people that we’re mixing with and to make sure that we stick to the rules and the health advice.”
After Victoria recorded another three locally acquired infections to a new total of six cases, the state has mandated mask-wearing indoors.
But Ms Berejiklian continues to resist making mask mandatory in NSW saying her government had to carefully weigh its response against its responsibility to community freedoms.
“We’re prepared to change things, we’re prepared to change settings suddenly and immediately if we have to,” she added.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant reiterated the threat of COVID-19 was ever-present, saying “we are never going back to normal”.
“We might get a little bit more normalcy once we have all the population vaccinated, but 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, years.”
New health alerts were issued on Thursday for various venues in Sydney that might have been contaminated.
They include Earlwood Bradwell Park RSL, Rhodes Priceline Pharmacy and Bass Hill Plaza.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard earlier confirmed the SCG cricket match was still going ahead on New Year’s Day.
Tighter restrictions for New Year’s Eve and the following days have now come into force.
Household gatherings across greater Sydney – which includes Wollongong, the Central Coast, Nepean and the Blue Mountains – are limited to five people indoors, down from 10, and 30 outdoors, down from 50.
The new five-person rule for indoor gatherings in Sydney will remain in place indefinitely.
Sydneysiders are mostly banned from watching the city’s New Year’s Eve fireworks from the harbour on Thursday, with the foreshore fenced off.
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.