The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, is “pleading” with people to come forward for testing after five cases of community transmission of coronavirus were identified in the state overnight, while in Queensland a man was in the community with an infectious UK strain of the virus for two days before going into isolation.
“As we see, the disease is still bumbling along in the community and we need to be vigilant about that,” Berejiklian said on Tuesday. “And that’s why I’m pleading for people to come forward and get tested. We know that it takes some time to completely get to the target of zero community transmission after there has been an outbreak, but it’s so critical that we raise those testing levels.”
There were 14,700 tests reported in NSW on Monday to 8pm, which the premier said was “not really enough for where we’re up to in the pandemic”.
Of the five new cases included in Tuesday’s NSW numbers, two were announced on Monday: a man in his 40s who tested positive at Mount Druitt hospital emergency department, and his household contact. NSW Health are investigating the source of their infections. A further two cases were identified in the northern beaches and the source of their infections is also under investigation. The fifth case, a woman in her 40s, is linked to the Berala cluster and is a known close contact of someone already identified and in isolation.
“Until we finish the mopping up, we don’t want another super-spreading event but the one restriction we want everybody to focus on at the moment is not having more than five people into your household on any given day, and please keep up the rates of testing,” Berejiklian said.
NSW Health director of communicable diseases Dr Jeremy McNulty agreed.
“The testing numbers are way too low,” he said. “We need 25,000-plus tests a day, and we need to see testing in places such as the northern beaches, such as western Sydney where we’ve seen cases recently, [and] throughout New South Wales.”
In Queensland, the state’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, said one new case in the community was identified overnight, and is the partner of a hotel quarantine cleaner that was infected with an infectious strain of the virus first identified in the UK, known as the B.1.1.7 variant.
Young said he became unwell the evening of 7 January and went into quarantine that day. “So the two days before he went into quarantine potentially could be a risk,” she said. “So I am asking people who went to any of the venues that he went to, please, immediately come forward and get tested. The risk is low, but the risk is there.”
Those venues include Bunnings at Acacia Ridge between 2pm and 2.40pm on 5 January, and Sunnybank Cellars in Sunnybank Hills between 2.05pm and 2.15pm on 6 January.
Meanwhile Berejiklian was asked again to defend NSW’s strategy of containing the virus, with other states implementing strict and swift border closures and restrictions in response to small outbreaks. She was asked whether NSW needed to restrict returning international arrivals from other states, given NSW was taking in the majority of travellers and therefore had a greater risk of new cases and quarantine leaks.
“I think that would be a very disappointing outcome because people have different situations,” Berejiklian said.
“We have New South Wales residents that arrive in Brisbane or Perth and I certainly wouldn’t want to disadvantage our citizens that arrive at different ports. Everybody’s circumstances are different. Other states have chosen to close their borders very quickly. They’ve chosen to have lockdowns for prolonged periods very quickly. And that’s a matter for them.”
She said it took NSW “considerable time” to close its border to travellers from Victoria when that state experienced a second wave from July, and that it was important to have compassion for peoples situations.
“I just wish that others would consider all those impacts because, in addition to being members of a state, we are all citizens of Australia and I think we need to show compassion to one another, and appreciate that we’d feel differently if we were in the shoes of our people,” she said.
“That’s why that level of compassion has to be central to decisions and I couldn’t care less at the end of the day what criticism is levelled at me. What I want to know we’re doing is what is in the best interests of the vast majority of our citizens.”