NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said there was “a strong possibility” that the man and woman were infected at the hotel at the same time by “a third party”. Health officials suspect other staff and patrons will have also been infected.
“I suspect that particular hotel is quite a popular hotel and I understand it would have been pretty full,’ Mr Hazzard said.
Dr Chant urged the community to be extra vigilant at this critical point in the pandemic, and said anyone showing even the slightest symptom should present for testing immediately. NSW authorities are on high alert for any signs that the virus has breached the Victorian border closure, she said.
On Friday, Victoria recorded 288 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the biggest increase of any Australian jurisdiction since the pandemic began. It was also the fifth consecutive day of triple-digit rises for Victoria. Twenty-six of the new cases were linked to known outbreaks and 262 were under investigation.
“It was always going to get worse before it got better,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said, warning the daily tallies could continue to rise despite greater Melbourne entering a six-week lockdown.
Mr Andrews urged all Melburnians to wear face masks in public spaces where physical distancing could not be guaranteed.
“We are simply asking that if you can wear a mask where you can’t distance, that is exactly what we would like you to do,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the number of international arrivals would be cut by more than half, resulting in 4000 fewer arrivals per week.
“The decision that we took to reduce the number of returned travellers to Australia at this time was to ensure that we could put our focus on the resources needed to do the testing and tracing and not have to have resources diverted to other tasks,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison also announced a nationwide review of hotel quarantine and said all states and territories would start charging returning travellers for their 14-day accommodation.
In Sydney, NSW Health authorities established a pop-up testing clinic in the car park of the Crossroads Hotel on Friday afternoon. Mr Hazzard urged anyone who had visited the hotel since Saturday night and had symptoms to get tested.
“We want you to get tested – and it is crucial you do – because otherwise you will be the instrument of seeding or one of the possible instruments of seeding here in NSW,” he said.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the hotel had a ‘COVID Safe’ plan in place.
Local resident Michelle Smith said she was”shocked and annoyed” by the news that she was potentially exposed to the coronavirus after having lunch with friends at the pub on Thursday and would consider getting tested. The 55-year-old said staff had worn gloves and had taken basic hygiene measures.
Mr Hazzard described the “troubling” case of a man in his 20s who tested positive in the Sutherland area after driving a caravan for 14 hours from Melbourne on July 7.
Dr Chant said the man had “minimal exposure” to other people. His partner has tested negative and three close contacts have been quarantined.
Mr Hazzard thanked the man for coming forward for testing, but urged any other Victorians who had travelled to NSW from Victoria to return home.
“I would ask you at this point to consider packing up your caravan, packing up your tent or what else you have, and head home to Victoria,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Your government has put in place very strict guidelines and rules, it is not helpful to be out of that environment if you were in that environment.”
The Health Minister also confirmed a batch of 77 swabs had gone missing from the Rozelle and Balmain area, following the positive test of a Woolworths employee who worked two shifts at the popular Darling street store.
“Those 77 have been misplaced in the rush to get so many tests done so quickly, but they also ask for you to come back and get retested,” Mr Hazzard said.
A spokesperson for Sydney Local Health District and NSW Health Pathology said the samples were delivered to the laboratory at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital but were not processed.
The owners of Double Bay venue The Golden Sheaf were also fined $5500 for breaking social distancing guidelines, after images of long queues outside the venue were shared online.
NSW recorded 14 new COVID-19 cases in the 24-hours to 8pm on Thursday from 18,524 tests conducted. The state’s case total is 3,278.
with Matt Bungard and Esther Han
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Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.