NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says Australians should assume mutated COVID-19 variants emanating from the United Kingdom and South Africa will become the world’s dominant strains due to their contagiousness.
She also believes mask usage will be mandatory for the foreseeable future.
NSW recorded one new locally-acquired case of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. on Friday, as all of Australia faces an anxious wait to see if the highly-contagious UK version of the virus has spread from Brisbane.
The single local infection was a contact of a case linked to the Berala cluster, which now numbers 21, and came from more than 25,000 tests.
There were also five new cases in travellers in hotel quarantine.
On Friday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced Greater Brisbane would enter a three-day lockdown after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the more infectious British strain.
The NSW government subsequently ordered anyone in the state who had been in Greater Brisbane since Jan. 2 to adhere to the same regulations.
Travellers from the area will only be able to leave their accommodation until 6 p.m. on Monday to shop, exercise, work, perform care or seek medical help.
Anyone already in transit from Greater Brisbane to NSW must abide by Queensland’s isolation rules and act as if they had remained in Brisbane.
Berejiklian on Saturday warned NSW residents the contagious UK and South African strains would likely become dominant in countries failing to suppress COVID-19 transmission.
More of those cases would consequently turn up in Australians returning home and spending time in state hotel quarantine systems.
As a result, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday international arrivals numbers into NSW, WA and Queensland’s hotel quarantine systems would be reduced by 50 per cent.
A weekly cap in NSW has been set at 1505 people until at least February 15.
“It’s important for us to learn as much as we can during this time … I also want to stress we shouldn’t be attributing these variants to one country because the so-called UK strain now exists in 30 countries,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.
“We have to assume that this strain will become the dominant strain and it is important to keep re-assessing our settings, keep staying vigilant.”
As part of the changes agreed upon at Friday’s National Cabinet meeting, overseas travellers will need to test negative to COVID-19 before departing for Australia and daily testing will be required for quarantine workers.
Changes will also be made in NSW’s hotel quarantine system, including faster genomic sequencing and enforcement of a full 14-day isolation period after symptom onset in COVID-positive travellers.
Previously, they could be discharged from quarantine from the 10-day mark with three asymptomatic days.
All travellers will now also require a negative “exit” test to be discharged.
New casual-contact alerts were on Friday issued for the Artisaint Cafe at the Crowne Plaza Sydney Burwood and the Burwood Bing Lee on January 6.
Those who attended Westfield Burwood and several shops inside the complex on Jan. 6 and 7 have also been advised to monitor for symptoms, as have patrons of Costume clothes shop at
Avalon Beach on New Year’s Eve.
A prior alert for Sydney Marina restaurant in Pendle Hill has also been upgraded to a casual-contact alert, meaning patrons must seek testing.
Suburbs north of Narrabeen Bridge on the northern beaches, meanwhile, have been under stay-at-home orders since before Christmas but that restriction is due to be lifted from Sunday.
By Angelo Risso