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NSW racing to contain virus spread as ACT restricts travel from NSW hotspots

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NSW contact tracers are racing to contain the coronavirus spread after three cases were recorded linked to western Sydney. 

It comes as the ACT restricts the arrival of non-residents coming from a NSW COVID-19 hotspot.

People from Sydney’s northern beaches, Greater Sydney, the Central Coast and Wollongong will not be legally permitted to enter the ACT without a valid pass. 

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Any travellers from these regions into the ACT for “extraordinary circumstances” are required to apply for an exemption at least three days prior to the planned entry but no more than 14 days ahead of time. 

The updated health direction will come into effect from midday on Saturday and any non-compliance will result in penalties, the ACT government says.

NSW on Friday reported three new coronavirus community transmissions, all linked to western Sydney.

Two cases – a man in his 40s and a man in his 20s – are under investigation after 32,000 people came forward for testing in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.

The third case, a man in his 20s, is a close household contact of one of the other two men.

Exposure sites

NSW Health expanded its list of exposure sites on Friday evening, saying anyone who visited BWS in Berala between 22 and 31 December must get tested immediately and isolate.

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Specific times of potential exposure on those dates can be found on the NSW Health website. 

None of the three new cases are linked to the northern beaches hotspot which now totals 146 after two previously recorded infections were linked.

The state government is urging western Sydney residents from Greystanes, Auburn, Berala and Lidcombe with even the mildest of symptoms to get tested.

NSW Health has also put out an exposure alert for shoppers who visited menswear store Culture Kings in Sydney between 1pm and 2pm on Monday, 20 December.

Anyone who was there during that window should get tested and self-isolate if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms.

Meanwhile, a mystery source that sparked the Croydon cluster and two cases in Wollongong has now been linked to the Avalon cluster, with the connection between the cases revealed by genetic testing.

Patrons who dined at the Swallowed Anchor restaurant in Wollongong on December 19 have been urgently called after one case from Croydon and another from the local area both attended on that date.

“There may have been a transmission event at that venue,” NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.

Victoria’s borders now shut 

Victoria shut its border with NSW at midnight on Friday. 

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The state announced its decision on Thursday, prompting two days of disruption and upset plans as Victorians holidaying in NSW rushed to get home.

Other alerts for Eden and Bermagui on the NSW south coast come after two coronavirus cases travelled to NSW from Victoria on December 30.

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Anyone who visited the Great Southern Hotel in Eden that afternoon should get tested and isolate until further advice, as well as Bermi’s Beachside Cafe in Bermagui on the evening of December 31.

New health alerts were also issued on Friday for Bunnings in Ashfield on December 28, Woolworths at Strathfield Plaza on December 20, Woolworths at Berala on December 24, 26, 28, and Haberfield’s Clark Rubber on December 28.

Stay-at-home orders applying to northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge will continue until at least January 9. A lockdown for the peninsula’s southern zone will be in place until January 2.

‘Very serious challenges’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the recent low numbers recorded in NSW were encouraging and he thanked the community for listening to health advice and coming forward for testing.

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“COVID still hasn’t gone away, it hasn’t taken a holiday, it won’t be going anywhere, and as a result, we continue to deal with the very serious challenges,” he said.

On Friday evening the Tasmanian government announced NSW’s Wollongong Local Government Area would join Greater Sydney as a medium-risk area from midnight, meaning arrivals from there will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Tasmania classifies Sydney’s northern beaches as a high-risk area, meaning no entry to Tasmania is allowed unless a special exemption is granted.

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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