Sydney Brings Back Mask Rules as Covid-19 Cluster Grows

A fresh outbreak of local cases in Australia’s largest city has been met with new domestic travel restrictions.

An aerial view of Sydney Harbour and the city’s CBD. (Photo: Craig Davies/Unsplash)

New South Wales is on alert following the reemergence of Covid-19 in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, traced to a hire care driver in Bondi who had transported international flight crews as part of his job. Genome sequencing has determined that he was infected with the Delta variant, which was behind the devastating second wave in India and is now driving rising infection numbers in the United Kingdom. Studies have shown the Delta variant to be up to 70 percent more infectious than other strains of Covid-19.

The driver’s wife and a woman who was at the same café as him have since tested positive, while an unlinked case has cropped up in the northwestern suburb of Baulkham Hills. A fifth local infection was announced earlier today; contact tracers have established that the person had “fleeting” contact with the index case in the same section of a department store at Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center on June 12.

In response to these developments, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has outlined new rules for Sydney and the Blue Mountains that will last until just after midnight on June 24. Masks are now mandatory on public transport and “strongly encouraged” in all public indoor venues. Non-essential visits to aged care homes and disability facilities are discouraged, and those who must go are advised to wear a mask and limit visits to two people per day.

Beyond New South Wales, other Australian states and territories have swiftly reimposed internal border restrictions on certain travelers from the Sydney area. South Australia has imposed a blanket ban on people who have been in locations identified as high-risk by NSW Health; similarly, anyone who has been at the listed exposure sites at the specified dates and times is now barred from entering Tasmania. Queensland is set to declare the Sydney suburb of Waverley a Covid-19 hotspot from 1 a.m. tomorrow, and all arrivals with recent travel history to Waverley and other places of concern will be required to go into hotel quarantine. Over in Victoria, the City of Sydney and the local government areas of Waverley and Woollahra have been declared as orange zones; those who have come in from these areas since June 11 must self-isolate and get tested for Covid-19. Western Australia says arrivals will have to undergo quarantine and mandatory testing if they have been to any of the exposure sites.

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