Subdued Xmas in store for Sydneysiders

Sydneysiders are set for a quieter than usual Christmas Day, with the size of family gatherings restricted due to the northern beaches COVID-19 cluster and authorities warning against virus complacency.

NSW recorded nine new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday from a record of more than 60,000 tests.

Seven of the cases were linked to the 104-strong northern beaches cluster.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday implored the state’s residents to avoid complacency over the Christmas period and limit movement as much as possible, with a four-tier NSW restriction system in place.

Northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge may host a maximum of five visitors, but they must all live in the local area.

South of the Narrabeen Bridge, in suburbs such as Dee Why and Manly, northern beaches residents may host up to 10 visitors at their homes but are not permitted to leave the area for gatherings elsewhere.

Across the rest of greater Sydney, people may host 10 other people in their homes, as well as an unlimited number of children aged under 12.

Large gatherings are still permitted in regional NSW.

Ms Berejiklian on Thursday warned residents could not afford to be complacent over Christmas, imploring residents to limit their movements and interactions and get tested with even the mildest of symptoms.

“Do not wait until the 27th because if people wait you could be unintentionally infecting people,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday.

Chief health officer Kerry Chant said testing and pathology staffing had been ramped up, shortening queues and the turnaround for results.

But Dr Chant said health authorities were now concerned about the possible emergence of another COVID-19 cluster in the Sydney CBD. Three cases have been connected to Paragon Hotel Sports Bar at Circular Quay.

Despite pleas from the Australian Medical Association to reconsider, Ms Berejiklian on Thursday insisted New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour will go ahead, with people encouraged to watch from home.

NSW Health late on Thursday afternoon issued “close contact” health alerts for Glorietta Restaurant and Bar in North Sydney and Massage Link in the Marketplace Leichhardt shopping centre.

Northern Territory on Thursday announced it would reopen to people travelling from greater Sydney with immediate effect, becoming the first state or territory to do so since the emergence of the northern beaches cluster.

However, northern beaches residents will remain locked out of the Top End.

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