NSW war-like as more venues become infected with COVID
A freight worker from Melbourne who spread COVID-19 to colleagues before partying with them at a pub has been revealed as patient zero in a snowballing cluster of 34 coronavirus cases that has forced more than 20 Sydney businesses to close and thousands to self-isolate.
The man, only identified as an employee at a Wetherill Park freight company, left Melbourne on June 30 and went to his workplace where he infected six colleagues before going to a work party with some of them at the Crossroads Hotel on July 3.
Health authorities have confirmed that between one and three people were infected with COVID-19 at the hotel, and the Friday night celebration had last night ballooned out to a cluster of 34 positive cases.
The infected pub-goers and their contacts have then travelled through Sydney, with several businesses going into lockdown now under investigation for further spread.
The viral load in this particular strain was revealed to be so high yesterday that symptoms developed in a day, while the Health Minister likened the current battle we are facing as a "war zone".
NSW Health COVID operations manager Jennie Musto, who was on Wednesday revealed as the mastermind who helped curtail the spread of the Crossroads cluster, confirmed the party sparked the outbreak.
The epidemiologist, who spent the past few years working in war zones in Yemen and Bangladesh, said her team of detectives thoroughly interviewed two of the first people to come forward in the cluster before pinning down the common link as their attendance at the Crossroads Hotel.
That discovery led them to the Melbourne freight worker.
"The man from Melbourne didn't think he was particularly unwell, didn't think he was sick with COVID. He travelled from Melbourne on the 30th of June," she said.
"He is in the freight industry, he is not a truckie. There are people who are his colleagues (who were infected) who then went to the party."
A Woolworths in Bowral, Milky Lane burger joint in Parramatta, Bankstown YMCA in Revesby, Bavarian Macarthur, Macarthur Tavern in Campbelltown and the Wests Leagues Club in Leumeah joined the growing list of venues under investigation after positive cases linked to the cluster went there.
Hurricane's Grill in Brighton Le Sands was also shut down until July 17 for deep cleaning after a confirmed COVID case, who is understood to be a contact of a Crossroads visitor, dined there on July 11.
Thousands of people across NSW have been forced into self-isolation as the list of impacted venues continued to grow to 21 last night.
Genomic testing of 30 cases revealed infection could be traced back to Victoria, with the sequences of new NSW cases matching those found in the southern state.
NSW Health was yesterday investigating if the four new cases were also linked to Victoria. Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said she was waiting on more data about genomic sequencing to confirm their hypothesis about the outbreak relating to Victoria. She added that the viral load of the coronavirus had increased, with some cases developing symptoms in just one day.
"The incubation period for this disease is one to 14 days. We've seen some acquisition which has been very short. People have developed these symptoms more towards that one-day period rather than the 14," she said.
"It gives very little time for contact tracers because you have to get your case diagnosed and then you've got to lock down those contacts. It just highlights the speed.
"What we would be hoping to find is that all of the virus from all of these cases is actually matching and consistent with our hypothesis that it was introduced from Melbourne."
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it was important to stay vigilant as cases rise.
"We are still effectively in a war zone," he said.
There have been 13 new cases of COVID-19 in NSW in the past 24 hours with three being returned travellers in hotel quarantine and the remaining 10 related to the Crossroads Hotel. The growing community transmission has led the Northern Territory to ban residents from all 30 local government areas across Greater Metropolitan Sydney from entering the state. It follows similar action from the Queensland Government which banned entry to residents from the Campbelltown and Liverpool LGAs.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian shut down the idea of a second lockdown and said eliminating the virus was not possible in a state the size of NSW.
Originally published as NSW war-like as more venues become infected with COVID