Sydney’s Northern Beaches COVID cluster has grown by five after more cases of the virus were announced in NSW.
Another nine cases were acquired overseas and identified in hotel quarantine.
There were 15,300 tests carried out on Sunday.
Of the five cases locally acquired four directly linked to the Avalon cluster.
The other was a household contact of a previously reported case on the Northern Beaches.
That source of infection is not yet linked to the Avalon cluster and remains under investigation. The cluster now numbers 126.
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NSW Health also reported that “A man in his 70s died earlier this week from respiratory complications following a COVID-19 infection diagnosed in March. He was a household contact of a locally acquired case.”
“Although his death is considered to be related to COVID-19, he had recently tested negative, was no longer infectious, and posed no risk to the community.”
The Avalon cluster
One of the local cases in NSW, a firefighter who works at Crows Nest but lives on the northern beaches, is still under investigation.
Three fire stations have been closed for deep cleaning and Fire and Rescue NSW is working with NSW Health to identify all contacts.
The firefighter also went to the Belrose Hotel for a short period of time on December 11 and it isn’t the only case connected with the hotel – leading NSW Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, to explain authorities are “looking for the missing link”.
A 20-year-old worker at the hotel was found this week to have been suffering from the virus in early December.
However, he didn’t cross over with the firefighter and doesn’t appear to have transmitted the virus to his close contacts.
“If you have been to the Belrose Hotel and have the most minimal of symptoms, please get a test any time in December, and even if you historically had an illness that you think in retrospect might have compatible with COVID please get a test and please isolate until you get that negative test,” Dr Chant said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a woman who posted on social media she would leave hotel quarantine in Perth and was later caught by police after fleeing her accommodation has returned a negative COVID-19 test result.
Jenny Maree D’ubios hadn’t completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine after recently arriving from overseas when she absconded on Saturday morning.
WA police found her at Rockingham Hospital.
She has been charged with failing to comply with a direction under the Emergency Management Act.
WA Acting Premier Roger Cook on Sunday said D’ubois, who arrived in Perth from Madrid on December 19, faced a maximum penalty of $50,000 or 12 months in prison.
While in hotel quarantine she had regular contact with an on-site medical, health, and wellbeing team, he said and was twice taken to Royal Perth Hospital for medical assistance.
Mr Cook said more than 20,000 travellers had been processed in the state’s hotel quarantine system without an incident until this point.
“Western Australia provided this woman with safe haven from a disease which has killed well over one million people worldwide,” he told reporters.
“So the fact she would take advantage from that hospitality and … put herself and many other people at risk is quite unacceptable.”
Mr Cook also said the state’s current policy of not monitoring the social media accounts of people in hotel quarantine would be reviewed.
However, Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller described the state’s hotel quarantine system as “voluntary” after D’ubios was able to leave.
“We know there are going to be uncooperative people, we know mistakes are going to be made, but in my job we have to have systems in place that make up for that, otherwise people die,” Dr Miller told reporters on Sunday.
Cases across the country
WA Health says the state recorded two new overseas-acquired cases – a man in his 40s and a woman in her 20s – in hotel quarantine on Sunday, following on from the six overseas-acquired coronavirus cases in hotel quarantine on Saturday.
A total of 662 people visited coronavirus clinics in the state on Boxing Day.
Victoria recorded its 58th consecutive day without a locally-acquired COVID-19 case, with one overseas-acquired infection discovered in hotel quarantine.
There are currently 10 active COVID-19 cases in Victoria, nine of which are in hotel quarantine, with the 10th in isolation at home.
South Australia recorded two new overseas-acquired coronavirus cases from 3172 tests conducted on Saturday.
The state has recorded 571 cases in total, SA Health says.
Cricket Australia’s preference is to keep the third Test, slated to begin on January 7, at the SCG.
But the clock is ticking on a decision as border closures and government COVID-19 restrictions present significant logistical challenges for cricket authorities.
Queensland will remain closed to Sydney until at least January 8.
The third Test will end on January 11 if it runs to a fifth day, while the fourth Test is scheduled to begin on January 15.
A change of venue for the third Test could see the Border-Gavaskar series remain in Melbourne after the Boxing Day showpiece.