Authorities are bracing for an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases linked to a western Sydney aged care home after a worker attended the facility for six consecutive days with mild symptoms and later tested positive.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant says 29 people connected to Anglicare’s Newmarch House in Caddens have been confirmed to have COVID-19, with testing being ramped up at the facility.
Of those cases, three are overseas-acquired and at least 20 are contacts of the female employee who attended work for six days with a sore throat.
Strict isolation protocols have been implemented at the home but Dr Chant expects the number of COVID-19 cases linked to the facility to rise.
She reiterated aged care workers needed to take particular care because COVID-19 was extremely infectious in institutional settings such as nursing homes.
Aged care workers with any respiratory symptoms should seek COVID-19 testing.
“We see this amplification in institutions and that explains the very strong messages we’re giving,” Dr Chant told reporters on April 17.
“Anyone in an institution who has lots of contact with lots of people poses significant risks if anyone is unwell and transmitting. It’s not unexpected.”
Most cases at Newmarch House, which has 96 residents, remain mild and Anglicare says they are being cared for by a specially trained team.
As a precaution, residents who tested negative are being re-tested, Anglicare said in a statement on Friday.
NSW Labor health spokesman Ryan Park has implored the government to enforce daily temperature checks on healthcare and aged care workers, as well as extra support and protective equipment in light of the incident.
Some 29 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in NSW on Friday, taking the total number of cases to 2926. No new deaths have been reported.
A seven-week-old baby boy was among the new cases.
There are 153 crew aboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship with confirmed cases of COVID-19, while at least 13 crew members have been evacuated to NSW hospitals.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the cruise ship – which is docked at Port Kembla – could leave Australia by Sunday.
Mr Fuller said on Friday he was still waiting for the all-clear for health authorities to begin the process of asking the Ruby Princess to depart, with NSW Health progressively testing the ship’s 1040 crew members for the virus.
A criminal investigation is underway into the Ruby Princess fiasco, which is connected to 19 coronavirus deaths and hundreds of cases across Australia, and police will send more than 5600 online questionnaires to passengers asking what they saw and heard during the cruise.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, meanwhile, said an additional $15 million would be provided for a 40-bed COVID-19 ward at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, as well as separate funding boosts for hospitals in Macksville, Mudgee and Dubbo.
“It is not just increasing ICU capacity but making sure our hospital wards can cater for COVID-19 patients who aren’t well enough to be at home but aren’t sick enough to be in ICU,” Berejiklian told reporters on Friday.
She said a “rostering system” would be implemented in NSW schools as face-to-face learning is ramped back up from the third week of term two on May 11, with students to go to school on staggered days of the week.
Meanwhile, police continue to enforce self-isolation regulations, fining 24 people and charging six across the state in the past 24 hours.