Australia COVID-19 cluster grows to 28, border restrictions reintroduced
An outbreak of COVID-19 in the Australian city of Sydney grew to 28 on Friday, with domestic border restrictions reintroduced for hotspot areas.
The cluster of cases appeared this week on Sydney's Northern Beaches in the State of New South Wales (NSW), and local residents were told to stay home for the next three days if possible.
Genomic testing revealed the strain of the virus originated overseas, likely in the United States. However, it was not known how it spread into Australia.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian called on all Sydneysiders to abide by officials' advice, saying she was confident the outbreak could be contained in time for Christmas if protocols were followed.
"We do have the potential to get on top of it, but it does require hard work on the behalf of all of us," Berejiklian said.
The new cases prompted other Australian states to tighten their border restrictions, reintroducing mandatory quarantine periods on arrivals from areas deemed high risk.
New restrictions were applied to those travelling from the Northern Beaches to other parts of the country, requiring them to get tested and self-isolate if they had been in the area since December 11.
The State of Western Australia went as far as to expand the requirements to anyone arriving from NSW.
The southern island State of Tasmania withdrew travel exemptions entirely for anyone who had been in the Northern Beaches or in one of several Sydney venues considered potential hotspots.
State leaders said the situation would be monitored closely and more severe restrictions would be considered if the number of cases increased to an unmanageable level.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that low virus numbers over the past months had led to an "avalanche" of complacency throughout the community.
"We need to have all of the community aware again that we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic," Hazzard said.
"There is no room for complacency. Until we have a vaccine there is no solution."