Sydney records 30 new virus cases; border restrictions isolate city

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Sydney’s coronavirus outbreak grew to around 70 on Sunday, forcing authorities to introduce stricter social distancing rules across the city, and more states to close borders or impose quarantine measures on its residents.

FILE PHOTO: A person is swabbed by a medical professional at a drive-through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing clinic in the Warriewood suburb of Sydney, Australia, December 18, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The neighbouring state of Victoria will close its border to Sydney from midnight Sunday. South Australia state introduced a 14-day quarantine for all Sydney arrivals on Sunday and banned travellers from the affected suburbs.

The island state of Tasmania took a similar step on Saturday, while Western Australia state imposed a hard border closure.

About a quarter of a million people in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs where the outbreak has occurred have been put into a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve.

On Sunday, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian said public gathering across the rest of Sydney will be limited, with household gatherings capped at 10 participants and hospitality venues at 300, among other restrictions.

“We must take this action now to ensure we keep on top of this outbreak,” said New South Wales (NSW) state Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

“Police will obviously have a more visible presence to ensure that everybody does the right thing to keep us all safe.”

She also urged people in the greater Sydney area to wear masks in public, although it was not mandatory.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said the NSW-Victoria border closure was to protect the state’s streak of 51 days of no new local coronavirus cases.

“There could be many more cases, not just in the northern beaches but in other parts of Sydney,” said Andrews.

NSW health authorities said that there were more than 28,200 tests conducted in the past 24 hours and urged more people to get tested. The origin of the virus in Sydney remains unknown, which genome testing suggests is a U.S. strain.

Until this week, Australia had gone more than two weeks without any local transmission and had lifted most restrictions ahead of Christmas. The Sydney outbreak and subsequent border restrictions have thrown thousands of families’ holiday travel plans into chaos.

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