Holiday heartbreak as border uncertainty grows
Queensland authorities can't rule out slamming the border shut on greater Sydney, as NSW probes whether airline crew could be behind the growing Northern Beaches COVID-19 outbreak.
The Christmas plans of Queenslanders hoping to reunite with southern relatives hung in the balance on Friday night, as NSW authorities put Sydney on its highest alert and urged residents to wear a mask.
The Sydney cluster has grown to 28, with the number of cases expected to rise worryingly. But all new cases are understood to be linked to the Avalon cluster.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young couldn't say on Friday whether the state's border would shut to greater Sydney before Christmas, warning further hot spots could be declared should community transmission grow.
The NSW government was forced to bring in new measures after an international airline crew breached quarantine restrictions, with all crews now required to isolate at two designated hotels near the airport under police guard.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard did not discount Australian aircrew as a possible source of the outbreak and confirmed aircrew who live on the Northern Beaches had been traced.
"Our advice is that they don't believe any of those aircrew are the source, but it is possible, we are still working through those issues because some of the aircrew that come in are Australians and home country crews can normally go to their homes," he said.
Genome sequencing has demonstrated that the virus strain a bus driver who had been transporting international flight crew had was "most likely a US strain".
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said this was consistent with the view among health officials that there had been "inadvertent transmission" from the crew he had been transporting.
In the case of the Avalon cluster, sequencing had also showed the virus was of "American origin, US origin", Dr Chant said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who cut her leave short yesterday, said she was on high alert as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged Sydneysiders to don masks.
Queenslanders have been urged to reconsider travelling to Sydney with Dr Young warning further hot spots could be declared.
"Think it through carefully, because if things rapidly escalate through the rest of Sydney, other areas might be declared hot spots," she said.
Dr Young said she was watching what was happening in Sydney very closely.
"My understanding is … there has been a case in Cronulla but they're linked to these other cases," she said.
"There's also been a case in Garden Island but again it's linked. So while they're linked and there isn't community spread in those localities they won't be declared hot spots."
A woman in her 50s, who travelled to Brisbane from Sydney on December 16, has tested positive with contact tracers now tracking down people who travelled on flight VA925 that were seated in rows 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
Anyone in those rows is required to get tested and quarantine for 14 days from December 16.
The woman, who Dr Young praised for minimising her interaction with people, got tested in Brisbane after learning she was a close contact with a positive case in NSW.
She was asymptomatic while in the southeast.
A public health alert has been issued for various venues, including the restaurant at the Glen Hotel in Eight Mile Plains, where the woman had lunch on the same day.
A further two cases were detected in Queensland's hotel quarantine yesterday which were acquired overseas.
Anyone who's travelled from the Northern Beaches of Sydney to the Sunshine State will need to undergo mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine from 1am today.
Anyone who was in that region since Friday December 11 but arrived in Queensland before 1am should get tested and quarantine in their home or accommodation for 14 days from the date they left the Northern Beaches.
Ms Palaszczuk said the risks were too great.
"We have come too far and sacrificed too much to risk going backwards," she said.
Police were meeting every flight from Sydney, with Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski saying they would be interviewing passengers to identify if anyone was coming out of the area.
"As of 1am (today) we return to our border declaration pass system, meaning if you are coming out of a hot spot you must have a border declaration pass to enter Queensland and you will be required to mandatory self paid hotel quarantine for 14 days," Mr Gollschewski said.
Originally published as Holiday heartbreak as border uncertainty grows