New South Wales’ coronavirus battle is kicking off again, with the state recording another case, a day after an aircrew driver and his wife tested positive.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new case was a woman aged in her 70s, who had attended a cafe in Sydney’s east at the same time as the original couple.
Ms Berejiklian said it was important anyone who was at the Belle Cafe, at 103 New South Head Road, Vaucluse on June 13 between 10.20am to 11.45am to isolate for 14 days and get tested ASAP.
The aircrew driver has been diagnosed with the highly infectious Delta strain and the genomic sequencing on his virus matches one from the US.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said it was “concerning” the driver had transmitted in a cafe.
Health authorities are working to figure out the movements of the driver, why his first coronavirus test was on June 15, despite drivers requiring daily tests, and exactly when he worked for the limousine company.
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Another possible case — a man from Baulkham Hills in Sydney’s west — was also found however authorities are investigating if it is a false positive.
The cases were found among more than 23,000 tests.
Ms Berejiklian said the government was holding off on imposing any restrictions but urged Sydneysiders, especially those from the east, to refrain from engaging in big gatherings.
“If you’re catching public transport, we recommend people wear a mask. At this stage, we’re all on high alert,” she said.
“We’re asking people to modify their activity, to consider where they’ve been, what their movements have been and what their movements may be until we go through the next few days as the situation is evolving.”
Questions rise over driver’s involvement with international aircrew
NSW’s health authorities are frantically “putting the pieces of the puzzle together” about how long the aircrew driver had been working for before he tested positive.
All drivers transporting international aircrew are required to be tested for coronavirus every day however Dr Chant said the positive driver’s first time being tested was on June 15.
June 15 was the first record of the driver successfully completing a saliva test, four days after his infectious period is believed to have started.
“It will be a matter for police to ascertain what his role was prior to that and when he commenced operations,” Dr Chant said.
After a journalist suggested authorities “had no idea how long he’s been driving for”, Dr Chant said the investigation was in its early stages.
“The obvious hypothesis is he has transported a flight crew who has subsequently been testing positive. We need to check and double check,” Dr Chant said.
“With those caveats, if that is the possible hypothesis, he has not been infectious before the 11th.
“Obviously we are putting the pieces of the puzzle together and that testing in the community helps us.”
Police investigate movements of aircrew driver
NSW Police have been tasked with investigating if the aircrew worker, who drives a limousine to transport flight crew, had complied with all his necessary infection controls.
“There is no room for complacency. Being slack about what the health authorities ask you to do is just inexcusable. We have to make sure that we all follow the rules,” Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
“Now, the police are obviously investigating the particular circumstances surrounding the limousine-driver and I won’t be commenting specifically on that limousine driver or those investigations, but what I will remind all drivers who pick people up from the airport more broadly is that you have obligations and your obligations are legal and they are to get saliva-tested every day and to make sure you wear appropriate PPE.
“If you don’t do that, you’re breaching the orders and the police will investigate you.”
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said police would continue their investigation “until we finish with an outcome that we can actually draw some conclusions, and take some action if we have to”.
Mr Worboys said police were already looking into any potential issues they can rectify.
Police are also investigating if the driver was vaccinated and if he was wearing a mask.
Urgent contact tracing underway as NSW’s 43-day Covid-free streak ends
The state’s contact tracers sprung into action last night after the aircrew driver tested positive to coronavirus.
The man, aged in his 60s, had a saliva test on Tuesday and the positive result of his test was confirmed yesterday.
His wife also tested positive, with both positive cases triggering the addition of more than a dozen exposure sites on NSW Health’s website.
The aircrew driver and his household contact visited a number of places in Sydney’s east over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
“Urgent investigations into the source of the infection and contact tracing are underway, as is genome sequencing,” NSW Health said.
“Close contacts are being urgently contacted, and asked to get tested and isolate. The man visited a number of venues while potentially infectious.”
The new cases broke NSW’s 43-day streak of no locally acquired cases.
The entire list of exposure sites are listed on NSW Health’s website however the worst-affected suburbs include Bondi, Bondi Junction, Vaucluse, Zetland and Redfern.
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Borders shut after positive Sydney cases
South Australia has followed Tasmania in shutting its borders to anyone who visited a “high-risk” site in NSW as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk advised against travelling to Greater Sydney.
Ms Palaszczuk said travel restrictions to Greater Melbourne remained in place for another seven days even though Victoria had eased restrictions and was allowing crowds to return to AFL matches and increasing attendances for weddings, funerals and religious gatherings.
“In line with other jurisdictions, we will maintain restrictions on travel from Greater Melbourne for another seven days, and we strongly advise those planning travel to Greater Sydney to reconsider,” Ms Palaszczuk tweeted this morning.
South Australia’s Covid-19 State Coordinator, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, has asked anyone already in his state who has been to any of the high-risk locations in recent days to isolate immediately and contact SA Health for advice.
The direction will take effect when he signs it this afternoon, Commissioner Stevens added, warning that people should be adaptable with travel plans and be aware that if they do go interstate, they could be subject to restrictions when they return home.
Major change to AstraZeneca guidelines
The AstraZeneca vaccine should now only be given to those aged 60 and above, the chief immunisation body has told the government.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) made the recommendation after a 52-year-old woman died from a brain clot last week. Mr Hunt said the government accepts the advice.
Some researchers and medical specialists were calling for a review of the age groups who receive the AstraZeneca jab after last week’s death.
“It is a change, and we recognise that that does bring some challenges. They [50- to 59-year-olds] will now have access to Pfizer,” Mr Hunt told reporters this afternoon.
“We will have significant volumes of Pfizer coming in over the course of the coming weeks and months, but we do ask for people’s patience on that front.”