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Mandatory mask rules to remain in NSW as Sydney records six new local coronavirus cases

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New South Wales has recorded six new locally-acquired coronavirus cases, with five members of one family linked to a previous case. 

The sixth case was a close contact of the family, with all of the six new cases in and around the Berala area, though genomic sequencing is yet to link them to the known cluster. 

The results came from 12,700 test results received over the 24 hours leading up to 8pm Saturday night.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said one of the people who tested positive worked at the Concord Repatriation General Hospital on days when they were potentially infectious, but that staff member had limited contact with the public. 

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She said there was no ongoing risk to the public at the hospital. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was still “mopping up” the outbreak, but said she was disappointed in the low testing rates, which may hinder the state’s ability to open up. 

“All of us want to see those restrictions we have in place eased, all of us want to be confident we can go back to what we had before Christmas,” she said. “And that will only be possible if we get those high rates of testing to give our contact-tracers and health experts confidence that we are on top of any unknown strains of the virus.”

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The Premier said mandatory mask wearing rules in shopping centres and large indoor public places will stay in place while testing numbers remain low.

“We just ask people to be respectful, and have I said this on many occasions, the New South Wales Government won‘t impose a restriction a day longer than we need to but our ability to ease restrictions does rely on the science and the health advice and we need to make sure we do it at the right time,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We’re still confident that if testing rates stay high, that the health advice will give us that confidence to make those changes. But it does rely on more people coming forward to get tested.”

New public health alerts have also been issued for a western Sydney venue and additional public transport routes following confirmed cases of COVID-19.

NSW has flagged the possibility of loosening restrictions on Greater Sydney next week but one of the conditions is high testing rates.

Meanwhile, Victoria is also watching Sydney closely, as it considers moving parts of the city from “red” to “orange” in its traffic-light permit system.

Travellers from orange zones still need to self-quarantine for 14 days but don’t need to apply for an exemption to enter Victoria.

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“There are clearly some local government areas within Greater Sydney that have now gone a number of days of cases without transmission,” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said in Melbourne.

“I will look very intensively at the epidemiology across Greater Sydney over the next couple of days.”

– Additional reporting by AAP.

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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