In worrying news from New South Wales, health authorities have confirmed that the growing COVID cluster around a Sydney BWS is of a different strain than the outbreak in the northern beaches region.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said today that genomic sequencing had revealed the strain in this outbreak was linked to a patient transport driver who had contracted it from a returned traveller.
“We have been dealing with two different strains that have been causing two clusters,” she said, telling media that the driver passed the virus on to a colleague, who then visited the BWS store in Berala.
Concerningly, this colleague only visited the bottle shop in the western suburbs of Sydney for a “very fleeting amount of time”, but this was enough for transmission to occur.
The Berala cluster has now grown to 13 cases, and authorities have put out a health alert for anyone who visited the bottle shop between December 22 and December 31. Chant said:
“Irrespective of if you think it was just a fleeting visit to this premises, we want you to act in a very precautionary way and are asking for your assistance … This is critical and I can’t stress enough how concerned we are about the transmission potential.”
More than 2000 people who attended the BWS in the west of Sydney have been contacted, and tens of thousands of other close contacts have been told to isolate and await test results.
Authorities are reviewing CCTV footage of the BWS to see how the virus might have spread, with Chant saying that the briefness of the exposures is a “concerning” aspect.
The state recorded eight new cases of COVID-19 overnight, and masks are now mandatory in certain indoor spaces in Sydney, with on-the-spot fines applying from Monday.
NSW recorded eight locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, with an additional three cases in returned travellers in hotel quarantine. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in NSW to 4,769 since the beginning of the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/nfteXerljg
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 3, 2021
From 3 January 2021, in Greater Sydney, Central Coast, Wollongong and Blue Mountains, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in certain indoor settings.
For a full list of premises where you must wear a mask and other rules, visit: https://t.co/AGl9czJhOu pic.twitter.com/9d1gqpqG4X
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 2, 2021