Australian states and territories enforce a ban on the entry of Sydney residents after a new coronavirus cluster was found in the nation’s largest city.
The city has recorded 83 cases so far in this outbreak, all linked to Sydney’s Northern Beaches region.
Australian officials are scrambling to trace the source of the infection. Tests have shown that the outbreak is similar to a strain of Covid-19 found recently in quarantined travellers, state officials said.
But authorities still do not know how it got into the community.
They said it had spread after one couple failed to isolate at home while awaiting Covid-19 test results.
Their December 11 visit to a popular lawn bowls club and pub in the Northern Beaches suburb of Avalon has now been identified as the “super spreader” event.
However it’s unclear how the couple who hadn’t travelled overseas became infected.
New South Wales (NSW) state authorities reported 15 new cases out of a record 38,000 tests conducted in the previous 24 hours.
Many viewed the numbers as encouraging that the virus had not spread further beyond the Northern Beaches, which is subject to a local lockdown.
But authorities warned that one day’s results were not enough to determine a trend.
The border closure of NSW have dashed hopes of travel amid the holiday season. Several airlines have cancelled flights leaving Sydney Airport from Monday.
In Sydney, indoor gatherings have been limited to 10 guests, and all residents have been told to minimise their social activity and to wear a mask in public spaces. Those living in the Northern Beaches will remain in lockdown until at least Wednesday.
Overall Australia has recorded 908 deaths and just over 28,300 infections since the pandemic began, far fewer than many nations.
It has been praised for responding quickly to the pandemic with border shutdowns, lockdown measures and aggressive contract-tracing efforts. Some failures, however, have been blamed for deaths.