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NSW extends Covid restrictions as ‘missing link’ in Sydney outbreak eludes authorities

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

New South Wales will extend most of its Covid-19 restrictions for another week as it struggles to identify the missing link between a quarantine case and the recent, small outbreak.

The state has again not reported any further community transmission, recording zero cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Saturday.

But NSW Health said it was still unable to identify the link between a case in hotel quarantine and two cases in the eastern suburbs, which were connected by rapid genomic sequencing work last week.

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The state will therefore extend the current restrictions by another week across greater Sydney, aside from one change, which will allow customers to shop without masks. Retail staff will continue to need to wear masks.

On Thursday, the state announced two locally acquired cases, a man in his 50s from Woollahra – dubbed Patient X – and his wife, also in her 50s.

Related: NSW Covid-19 hotspots: list and map of Sydney and regional coronavirus case locations

The source of their infection has not yet yet been established. But authorities continue to believe he contracted the virus upon brief contact with an infectious person going about their business in the community unwittingly.

“Investigations are ongoing into the source of two locally acquired cases, announced on Thursday 6 May,” NSW Health said on Sunday. “They are household contacts of each other; a man and woman in their 50s from the eastern suburbs.

“Despite extensive investigations to date, NSW Health has not identified how the initial case, the man in his 50s, was exposed to Covid-19, which suggests he acquired the infection through brief contact with a currently unidentified person who was infectious in the community.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian tweeted her thanks to the public for showing their patience, saying the extension was needed to prevent a super-spreader event.

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The restrictions will now last until 12.01 am on Monday 17 May.

Households will be limited to 20 visitors, including children, and masks will still be compulsory on public transport and in public indoor venues, including aged care facilities. Visitors to aged care facilities are still limited to two people per day.

Pubs and bars will not be allowed to have patrons standing up and drinking, and dancing will continue to be prohibited, except for at weddings. Singing by audiences at indoor shows or at church is also not allowed.

Promisingly, NSW Health said testing numbers were still strong. About 18,000 tests were reported to 8pm last night, a dip from the 22,153 the day prior.

NSW Health said high testing rates were vital for detecting the unknown link that led to the community transmission.

“We thank the community for their strong response to calls for testing and continue to urge everyone in NSW with even the mildest symptoms – such as headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat or runny nose – to come forward immediately for testing, then isolate until you receive a negative result.”

Another six new overseas-acquired cases were recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. A previously reported overseas case has been excluded after further investigations.

Berejiklian earlier said she was pleased with the way the state had handled the small outbreak.

“The only concern for us is that obviously, at least one person has been in the community, going about their business for a few days not knowing they had the virus,” she said.

“We know there’s at least one, possibly more people that have been walking around with the virus.”