NSW restrictions to ease from Friday, Gladys Berejiklian confirms

NSW restrictions to ease from Friday, Gladys Berejiklian confirms
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On Monday, NSW will begin accepting up to 3000 returning overseas travellers a week after the number was cut in half in January.

“While we have increasing numbers of people coming in from Monday through Sydney Airport and while we do have the more contagious strains of the virus becoming more prominent … it’s really important for us to stay vigilant and we want to mitigate against what we call superspreading events,” Ms Berejiklian said.

To that end, a capacity cap of 300 people and restrictions on dancing and singing will remain in place for weddings and funerals, she said.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed NSW had recorded no local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday. A total of 18,885 tests were reported over the same 24-hour reporting period.

Dr Chant said NSW Health had ruled out the possibility that a Wollongong man who tested positive for the virus two days after completing his 14-day stay in hotel quarantine contracted the virus at the hotel.

There were five other cases in the same hotel who had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at the same time as the man. Genomic sequencing of four of those cases showed they did not match the man’s case, suggesting it was “very unlikely” the Wollongong man contracted the virus in hotel quarantine, Dr Chant said.

The man flew into Sydney from South America, where he most likely contracted the virus, NSW Health indicated.

Dr Chant said preliminary genomic sequencing did not suggest the man had a “variant of concern”, first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Dr Chant said the man was not very infectious while he was in the community. An expert panel will determine whether his infection is most likely historic and no longer contagious, she said.

She said several improvements had been progressively introduced in the state’s quarantine system in response to the emergence of the more infectious variants.

Four new cases were acquired overseas, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in NSW since the beginning of the pandemic to 4940.

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Ms Berejiklian said NSW had welcomed more than 122,000 people from overseas and almost half of all returning Australians came through Sydney Airport before returning to their home states or territories.

In Melbourne, returned travellers are being evacuated from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel and two Catholic schools in Sunbury have been closed after a total of three COVID-19 cases in the community have been linked to the hotel.

The first case detected this week was a quarantine worker, and two more cases were returned travellers who tested positive after finishing their 14-day quarantine period.

Guests at the Holiday Inn started being transferred to the Pullman Hotel on Tuesday night.

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More than 950 hotel quarantine workers across the Victorian program are now in isolation after being identified as close contacts of the three Holiday Inn cases.

A total of five cases have been detected in less than a fortnight across three Victorian quarantine hotels. Three are confirmed to be the more infectious British variant of COVID-19.

Ms Berejiklian said the NSW government was concerned about recent events in Victoria.

Dr Chant said she received an update from Melbourne’s Chief Health Officer early Tuesday morning regarding their quarantine leaks.

Anyone who worked or stayed on any floor of the hotel between 27 January and 9 February is now considered a close contact and must get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result. Advice released earlier this week suggested only people who had been on the third floor were close contacts.

NSW Health is continuing to screen passengers arriving on flights from Victoria and any person who enters NSW from Victoria by air or rail is required to complete a passenger declaration form.

More to come.

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