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SA shuts NSW border as Sydney cluster grows

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South Australia has slammed its border closed to travellers from New South Wales – effective immediately – amid “an elevated level of concern” with spiralling case numbers linked to the Bondi COVID cluster.

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In a shock move, SA authorities revealed at a 1.30pm media conference that Emergency Co-ordinator Grant Stevens had issued a “verbal direction” to be put in place immediately, closing SA’s border to new arrivals.

It comes as the number of new NSW cases with the Delta variant of COVID-19 linked to the Bondi cluster soared past 30, with new restrictions imposed across Sydney.

Stevens said “people arriving from NSW will be required to submit to quarantine or return” – even people currently in transit, with up to seven flights set to arrive in coming hours.

“We do appreciate that this does cause a significant imposition on people, but the reality is we are dealing with a highly contagious virus [and] a particularly difficult strain, and the steps we are taking have been strongly advised by SA Health as in the best interest of South Australians,” he said.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said those arrivals will be dealt with on a “case by case basis”.

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters: “Most people would have realised that the situation in NSW is deteriorating; we have additional exposure sites and the number of new infections has increased.”

“We’re announcing now, effective immediately, we’ll put level six restrictions in place for NSW.”

However, there will be a 100km “buffer” along the border, allowing free movement for residents in border communities to and from SA.

“That will be a great relief for people in places like Wentworth and Broken Hill,” Marshall said.

However, he conceded the new direction was “pretty tough news for many people, particularly as we are heading into school holidays”.

“We want to keep our state safe and economy strong, so we’ve taken this action today to do precisely that,” he said.

Marshall said the new border measures would allow exemptions, to be granted on request, for “people moving permanently here, essential workers or people facing domestic violence situations”.

Stevens told reporters: “In accordance with the Emergency Management Act, I have the ability, verbally, to put in a direction to take place immediately.”

It will mean people travelling from NSW, or who have spent time in NSW in the last 14 days, will not be permitted entry to SA.

“Anybody living or operating within that 100km buffer will be able to travel unrestricted into SA [but] any other person seeking to arrive from NSW will be required to seek an exemption,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s having to be done – there are people currently travelling to SA and they will be managed by SA Health.”

He said authorities would seek to “communicate as quickly as possible to people who may be planning to travel today”, with anyone currently in transit to be “received at the airport [and] dealt with on an exemption basis by SA Health”.

The move is in response to the “particularly difficult” Delta strain, with Stevens saying: “The steps taken today have been strongly advised by SA Health.”

An exemption for Sydney Swans players and officials to enter SA via Melbourne for their weekend clash with Port Adelaide was granted yesterday, with Kirkpatrick saying that remains in place for now.

“We’ll work with the AFL on this but the exemption that was given last night still stands,” she said.

The Berejiklian Government today declared thousands of city dwellers won’t be allowed to travel beyond metropolitan Sydney with a range of restrictions imposed after NSW recorded several new COVID-19 cases following a “super-spreader event”.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said restrictions are “effective immediately” for Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour.

The so-called Bondi cluster stood at 31 today after an unvaccinated Sydney airport limousine driver last week tested positive to the highly infectious Delta variant, which quickly started spreading at Bondi Junction’s busy Westfield shopping centre.

“Please abandon non-essential activities, please don’t attend social gatherings unless you absolutely must,” Berejiklian said today.

“I am not going to rule out further action.”

Residents who live or work in the City of Sydney, Waverley, Randwick, Canada Bay, Inner West, Bayside, and Woollahra local government areas cannot travel outside the metropolitan area unless it’s absolutely essential.

The metro area is defined as the Hawkesbury/Nepean River in the north/north west and the outer boundaries of the City of Penrith, Camden Council, the City of Campbelltown and Sutherland Shire.

“We don’t want the virus to spread to the regions,” Berejiklian said.

NSW recorded 10 locally acquired cases to 8pm on Tuesday, seven of which were already announced.

An additional 13 cases were reported after 8pm, which will be counted in Thursday’s official tally. Four of these cases are currently unlinked to existing cases.

Overall, there have been 16 new cases, taking the total number of infections to 31, from 21 on Tuesday.

Under the new restrictions, household visitors are limited to five people, including children, and masks are now compulsory in non-residential indoor settings – including workplaces – and at outdoor events.

Masks must also be worn to gym classes, which limited to 20 people.

More than 44,000 tests were completed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.

Eight of the 13 cases confirmed overnight had attended a birthday party attended by about 30 people in West Hoxton on Saturday, which NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant described as a “super spreader event”.

She warned there were people “unknowingly” infected in the community.

An asymptomatic worker from Bondi Junction went to the party as did a father and a daughter.

The child then went to her childcare centre 60km southwest of Sydney’s CBD on Monday.

Little Zak’s Academy Narellan Vale confirmed it had been closed for deep cleaning.

When asked how this outbreak differed from the one in Sydney’s Northern Beaches area late last year, Chant said this cluster involved the Delta variant of the virus and while a retail environment was usually a low-risk setting, the speed of transmission was “particularly concerning”.

“We saw close contact but it would be the inadvertent contact you would have in retail settings that we would not have suspected transmission could happen as objectively,” Chant said.

Meanwhile, three NSW Nationals MPs who all attended a Paddington pizzeria on Monday night are among those testing and isolating after being contacted by NSW Health.

The spike in infections is a blow for the state with school holiday plans now in tatters.

Just two days before public schools break for two weeks, Queensland followed Victoria and New Zealand by imposing bans on travellers from much of Sydney.

-with AAP

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