NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is urging residents of Sydney’s northern beaches with even the mildest of symptoms to get tested for COVID-19 after two new cases were identified overnight.
The cases bring the total number of new cases announced in the last 24 hours to five – including two others on the northern beaches.
Ms Berejiklian said she received confirmation half an hour earlier that “in addition to those three cases which the public is already aware of there have been an additional two new cases on the northern beaches”.
She said the latest case she was made aware of was at Frenchs Forest.
Speaking in northern NSW alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce an upgrade to the Pacific Highway, Ms Berejiklian said the state had seen an increase in testing overnight.
She said there are a number of aged care facilities in the northern beaches that will be directed to stop taking visitors “until we identify the source of the infection and feel more confident we have it under control.
“We want to get on top of this and don’t want this concerning us in the last few days before Christmas and urging everyone to be as vigilant as ever,” Ms Berejiklian said.
At a simultaneous press conference announcing an ambulance program in Sydney, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said one of the new northern beaches cases was “towards the northern end of the peninsula, and the other from [the] southern end”.
He expects NSW Health will update the public with more details about the two additional cases early this afternoon, including any locations they may have visited while infectious.
Given the cases, Mr Hazzard said he would like the state’s daily testing rates to be between 15,000 and 25,000.
Long lines have begun forming outside COVID-19 testing clinics in the area.
“We’re having genomic testing done of those cases from yesterday and soon to be today, and then we’ll have a better handle of the circumstances of those particular cases,” Mr Hazzard said.
Three new cases identified on Wednesday – a Sydney Airport shuttle driver from Sydney’s south and two from Avalon in the northern beaches – were the first cases of community transmission in the state since December 3.
On Wednesday night, NSW Health released details of a string of venues the Avalon pair visited while infectious.
Health authorities said anyone who visited the below venues is considered close contacts and should get tested and isolate for 14 days, even if they receive a negative result.
Mr Hazzard refused to comment on reports that the Avalon pair did not self-isolate after testing, and said he was “disappointed” a health worker had made comments about individual cases to the press.
“We have never commented on those particular cases, and we won’t, because we want people to always feel comfortable in coming forward,” he said.
Mr Hazzard said he hoped other states wouldn’t “do anything preemptive” in response to the cases, noting many of the returned travellers being quarantined in Sydney hotels came from interstate.
“We’re doing the work for them, and I think they should just allow us to do that work, which we’ve done so well,” he said.
On Thursday morning, Queensland Acting Premier Steven Miles said it would take a lot more cases for the border to close, but local government areas or postcodes could be declared hotspots if the outbreak worsened, with the situation to be monitored for the next 24 hours.
Speaking alongside the Premier in Woodburn, south of Lismore, Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the coronavirus response of the Berejiklian government and took a swipe at other states.
“NSW is the gold standard,” he said. “I don’t spend too much time worrying about NSW.”
He said the state’s “ability to stand and remain open during the crisis of 2020 had an immeasurable benefit to the national economy.
“Where other states faltered, NSW stood very strong,” the Prime Minister said.
with Lydia Lynch
Start your day informed
Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here, The Age’s here, Brisbane Times’ here, and WAtoday’s here.
Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald.
Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Mary Ward is a health reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.