NSW has recorded seven new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases and set another record for the number of tests done in a 24-hour period.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has cautioned Sydneysiders to “think twice” before going to Boxing Day sales in Sydney’s CBD because of concerns there may have been transmission there.
The seven new cases identified in the 24 hours to 8pm on Christmas Eve are all connected to the northern beaches, and six were already in isolation, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on December 25.
Four cases are part of the Avalon cluster, bringing the total number of cases in it to 108.
A further two live with another case, whose source of infection is still under investigation.
Another case is still under investigation, but the person works in the northern beaches and has transport exposure.
The cases were identified from almost 70,000 tests on Thursday, breaking Wednesday’s record of 61,084 tests. There have been more than 300,000 tests across NSW in the past week.
Berejiklian and NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant reiterated their concern about possible transmission in the Sydney CBD after a number of cases were associated with Circular Quay’s Paragon Hotel Sports Bar.
Berejiklian discouraged Sydneysiders from going to the CBD, especially for the traditional Boxing Day sales, while acknowledging it was “not the easiest message to give to those retailers”. She implored everyone to wear a mask, use hand sanitiser and practice social distancing.
The advice comes as Sydneysiders are having a quieter than usual Christmas Day with the size of family gatherings restricted due to the cluster.
“Today is a day where it is really about thanking the community,” Berejiklian said. “I do not think anybody is having a normal Christmas today across NSW.”
Chant urged anyone who might have mild symptoms to get tested rather than possibly infecting their relatives, and asked people to consider eating Christmas meals outdoors under cover despite the rain.
She also asked people with even mild symptoms to avoid visiting relatives in aged care.
Berejiklian paid tribute to health workers and pathologists who have been working through the night to deliver test results and may not be able to see their family on Christmas Day.
The source of the Avalon cluster is still under investigation.
Chant said on Friday that a man who works in Belrose in the northern beaches was discovered earlier this week to have had the virus around December 10 – days before the current outbreak emerged – but did not appear to transmit it to anyone else.
People who have spent time in Belrose and Davidson should be alert, and anyone who has experienced symptoms – even if they have resolved – should be tested as it could help authorities piece together the chain of transmission, Chant said.
More venues are expected to be added to NSW Health’s list of COVID-19 alerts on Friday afternoon, with health authorities are asking patrons of Paddington Alimentari in Sydney’s east to be particularly alert.
Another case has been linked to the venue, bringing the total of linked cases to four. All dined there between December 17 and 19. The new case will be included in Saturday’s COVID-19 numbers.
Elsewhere, the Northern Territory has reopened to people travelling from Greater Sydney.
It is the first state or territory to do so since the emergence of the northern beaches cluster.
However, northern beaches residents remain locked out of the Top End for now.
Hannah Ryan in Sydney