Australia

Face masks become mandatory in Greater Sydney as authorities race to contain Berala BWS cluster


Sydneysiders who flout new mandatory mask rules from Monday risk a $200 fine as the public health order comes into effect.

But Health Minister Brad Hazzard has asked NSW police to exercise discretion in handing out fines to those who ignore the new rules.

Masks are mandatory in shopping centres, on public transport, in places of worship, hair and beauty premises, entertainment venues such as cinemas and other indoor venues like post offices and banks.

Hospitality workers are also required to wear one.

Mandatory masks have been introduced as a suburban bottle shop causes a headache for authorities trying to limit the spread of coronavirus.

BWS in Berala, in the city’s west, was an exposure site for up to nine hours a day every day between 22 December and New Year’s Eve, skipping only Christmas Day.

Tens of thousands of people have been affected.

Most who dropped by the bottle-shop across the Christmas period are now considered close contacts and need to isolate for 14 days even if they only attended the outlet for a short time.

More than 1000 people attended on Christmas Eve alone.

The COVID-19 cluster in Berala is up to 13 cases, with genetic sequencing revealing the source is a patient transfer worker who took a family of returned overseas travellers to a health facility.

The worker became infected and passed the virus to a colleague, who attended the Berala bottle shop for a “very fleeting amount of time” on 20 December.

Acting Premier John Barilaro said on Monday the government had no qualms about tightening restrictions around Berala if unsourced COVID-19 cases began to emerge.

He admitted contact tracing at the BWS was a colossal task, as QR codes are not mandatory at NSW bottle shops.

Mr Barilaro declined to reveal the number of new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday but said overnight reports from health authorities were positive.

“We will always consider what we can do in relation to a lockdown, further restrictions, especially where there is a hot spot,” he told the Nine Network.

“One of the things we said when we were lifting restrictions was that if we had to respond, it would be fast and it would be hard and local, just like we have done for the (Northern Beaches) peninsula.”

The NSW government has set a target of 20,000 or 30,000 tests a day while it tackles the outbreaks.

The Northern Beaches cluster on Sunday lifted by two to 148 people, with the northern part of the peninsula still under stay-at-home orders. Those orders will remain in place until at least Saturday.

NSW Health is currently treating 125 people with COVID-19, none of whom are in intensive care.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.



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