New South Wales authorities are refusing to use CCTV footage from COVID-19-infected venues to trace contacts due to ‘privacy reasons’, despite Health Minister Brad Hazzard saying the state is facing ‘war zone’ conditions.
Mr Hazzard’s grim declaration came as NSW cases grew by 13 on Wednesday, ten of which were linked to the Crossroads Hotel outbreak in the city’s south-west.
The cluster has spread to more than 20 other Sydney businesses – from Macarthur Tavern in Campbelltown to Hurricane’s Grill in Brighton Le Sands.
But NSW Health has rejected offers from several large clubs and pubs to provide CCTV footage to help officials trace people who have come into contact with infected patrons.
Sydney’s Star Casino is one of the venues which offered to provide footage in the hope of stemming the spread following a positive case on July 4.
A spokesperson for the Pyrmont casino said they were just trying to help a potential Melbourne-style outbreak.
Star Casino offered their CCTV footage to NSW Health to trace contacts, but authorities rejected the offer because it would be a ‘breach of patient privacy’
As NSW cases grew by 13 on Wednesday – with 10 of those related to the Crossroads Hotel outbreak – Health Minister Brad Hazzard said ‘we are still effectively in a war zone’.
A medical worker takes a swab from a woman at a COVID-19 coronavirus testing station in Picton, southwest of Sydney
‘We just want to help. We want to provide our guests and team members with a level of information they currently don’t have,’ they told The Daily Telegraph.
‘Our sophisticated surveillance resources with around 3000 CCTV cameras can easily validate where this person went and who he came in close contact with, if anyone, while he was here.’
A worker within the hospitality industry said they were shocked with the state’s response.
‘It is staggering that the privacy of infected individuals is being put ahead of the health of the general community. These people have already willingly handed over their personal details for the purpose of contact tracing,’ they said.
A string of other venues had offered security footage but were also knocked back, according to the paper.
NSW Health said the footage wasn’t used because it would be a ‘breach of patient privacy’.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted NSW Health for further comment.
Anybody who attended the Star Casino on the night of July 4 between 10 and 10.30pm is urged to get tested.
Meanwhile in Victoria, it has been revealed McDonald’s workers were not instructed to get tested despite a positive case in the restaurant.
A traffic worker directs motorists at a COVID-19 coronavirus testing station in Picton, southwest of Sydney
A food delivery rider wearing a facemask is seen riding by one of the many empty shops with a For Lease on Lygon Street in Melbourne
The store in Mill Park, in Melbourne’s north-east, was closed on June 25 to undergo cleaning when a staff member contracted the virus.
The restaurant identified 26 workers who were close contacts and they were ordered to self-isolate.
But the Victorian Department of Health did not deem it necessary for these workers to be tested.
A McDonald’s spokesman said they wanted their workers tested.
‘While we respect the department’s advice as the experts managing this very difficult situation, our preference remains that any potential close contacts should be instructed to be tested,’ a spokesman told The Australian.
‘McDonald’s has a very productive working relationship with the (DHHS) and has continued to act above and beyond the department’s requirements out of an abundance of caution.’
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said Sydney is ‘still effectively in a war zone’ as NSW cases grew by 13 on Wednesday
McDonald’s workers at Mill Park (pictured) in Victoria were not instructed to get tested despite a positive case in the restaurant
But advice on the Federal Health Department website states anyone who has been in contact with a coronavirus-positive person should get tested.
‘Testing is important for anyone with symptoms and particularly if any of the following apply to you … you have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days,’ the advice reads.
Victoria recorded 238 new cases and one death on Wednesday, the tenth consecutive day of triple-digit infection rates.
It comes as authorities identified ‘patient zero’ who brought the virus from Victoria and sparked the outbreak at Sydney’s Crossroads Hotel, now linked to 34 cases.
Victoria recorded 238 new cases and one death on Wednesday, the tenth consecutive day of triple-digit infection rates
NSW recorded 13 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with ten of those cases coming from the Crossroads Hotel outbreak, bringing the cluster to 34 cases
Contact tracer Jennie Musto said the link between the outbreak with Victoria was a man who travelled from Melbourne to Sydney on June 30, before the border closed.
He worked in the freight industry.
The Melbourne man went to a workplace in Sydney, which has since had confirmed cases, before all employees went to a party at the Crossroads Hotel on July 3.
‘So this is where it all began,’ Ms Musto said.
Ms Musto has since been been hailed a hero for identifying the Crossroads Hotel cluster.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government will now consider placing restrictions on ‘high risk’ activities
Residents wait in their cars at a COVID-19 coronavirus testing station in Picton
The epidemiologist and her team of detectives interviewed the first two people infected in the cluster.
From that they were able to determine the common link between them was their attendance at the pub, which then led them to the Melbourne freight worker.
‘The man from Melbourne didn’t think he was particularly unwell, didn’t think he was sick with COVID. He travelled from Melbourne on the 30th of June,’ she said.
‘He is in the freight industry, he is not a truckie. There are people who are his colleagues (who were infected) who then went to the party.’
Dr Kerry Chant, the NSW Chief Health Officer, said the pub outbreak highlights the ‘rapidity with which COVID can spread’ and the importance of identifying cases quickly.
‘It’s very important we don’t lose sight that COVID could’ve been introduced in any other part of Sydney … this is a stealthy virus,’ she said.
Dr Chant also named a number of venues where confirmed COVID-19 cases spent time including the YMCA at Revesby, Wests Leagues Club at Leumeah, Macarthur Tavern in Campbelltown and Casula Kmart.
The Milky Lane burger joint in Parramatta and the Bavarian Macarthur restaurant in Campbelltown were later added to the list.
Locals are seen wearing facemasks in the CBD during COVID-19. A further 238 cases were recorded on Wednesday
Dr Chant also named a number of venues where confirmed COVID-19 cases spent time including the YMCA at Revesby, Wests Leagues Club at Leumeah, Macarthur Tavern in Campbelltown and Casula Kmart
Doctor says Australia could potentially be coronavirus-free if it went into total lockdown
Eradicating coronavirus in Australia is conceivably possible providing the country goes into lockdown to stop superspreaders perpetuating the illness, a university mathematician says.
Medical practitioner and mathematician Dr David Kault says research shows eliminating superspreaders is the key to winning the war against COVID-19.
The adjunct senior lecturer at Queensland’s James Cook University says Australia has a 50-50 proposition of eliminating the disease, but that any win comes with personal and financial sacrifice.
Dr Kault said a policy of suppression without elimination leads to an eventual increase in infections, which is what is occurring in New South Wales and Victoria.
Medical staff take details of a resident before taking swabs at a COVID-19 coronavirus testing station in Picton, 80 kilometres south-west of Sydney
‘We are seeing the consequences of opening up too soon,’ he said.
‘We can still eliminate it, but we need to lockdown again now. We can’t get complacent because numbers are low. Mathematically, going the extra mile to lock down for a few extra weeks is worth it.
‘Elimination on an island continent is possible.’
He said a lockdown would almost certainly smother superspreaders who are more infectious than others.
However, it’s difficult to determine who they are and shutting down the country for a couple of weeks would eliminate their potency.
‘Superspreaders are the key. We know there are occasional superspreaders who pass the disease on to many others, which means there are also people who pass the disease on to no one,’ he said.
‘The majority of infectious people don’t spread it to others and just 20 per cent account for 90 per cent of all subsequent infections.’
A worker at Woolworths in Bowral has also tested positive to the virus and the store underwent deep cleaning on Tuesday night. The staff member worked at the store on July 12 and was asymptomatic at the time.
A south-west Sydney pizza restaurant, meanwhile, is closing for three days for deep cleaning after a customer on Friday tested positive for COVID-19.
Mancini’s Original Woodfired Pizza at Belfield said NSW Health had deemed the case a low risk to staff as the male customer stayed within his group.
It comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government will consider placing restrictions on ‘high risk’ activities.
She said eliminating the virus was ‘very unrealistic’ and ‘suppressing’ it was the only option.
‘There is definitely room for us to consider what else might be considered a high-risk activity and consider how we curtail some of that risk,’ Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
‘Whilst we would all love to adopt a policy of elimination it’s, I think, unrealistic to assume we would get there – in fact, very unrealistic.
‘Suppression is definitely the right strategy for a population the size of ours.’
‘More deaths will come’: Grim warning as Victoria records 238 new cases
The scale of Victoria’s ongoing coronavirus outbreak has the state’s chief health officer warning that more deaths will come.
A woman in her 90s died overnight, after a man and a woman in their 80s died in hospital on Tuesday.
It brings the number of Victorians killed by the virus to 27 and the national toll to 111.
Victoria recorded 238 new cases on Wednesday, the 10th day in a row the state has recorded a triple-digit increase, with just 29 linked to known outbreaks and 209 under investigation.
There are 105 people in hospital with the virus – an increase of 20 since Tuesday – including 27 in intensive care.
Healthcare workers wait to test residents inside a public housing tower, locked down in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease
‘These hospitalisation numbers are of great concern to us,’ Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.
The state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton warned the death toll will rise due to the ongoing surge of new coronavirus cases.
‘When we have 238 cases every day, we are looking at two to three deaths in a week’s time, so we have to have these numbers decrease,’ he said.
Prof Sutton said Australia had one of the best ICU survival rates in the world, largely because hospitals haven’t been overwhelmed with thousands of new coronavirus cases each day.
Meanwhile, two new outbreaks have emerged at aged care facilities, with nine cases linked to Embracia Aged Care in Moonee Valley and two at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner.
The state’s largest aged care cluster at Menarock Life nursing home in Essendon has also grown, with 29 staff and residents now infected.
People wearing face masks are seen at the entrance of the Menarock Life aged care facility, where a cluster of some 28 new infections had been reported
Thirty-three people have tested positive to COVID-19 at Somerville Retail Services in Tottenham, which supplies beef, lamb and pork to Coles supermarkets, while 21 workers at JBS Abbatoir in Brooklyn have also contracted the virus.
Prof Sutton said the nature of the state’s latest outbreaks were ‘trickier’ than those in the past, which were predominantly returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
‘It won’t be as easy to drive numbers down with the community transmission out there,’ he said, noting mandatory mask-wearing ‘shouldn’t be off the table’.
‘It’s a risk not to have them, especially with the transmission going on in Melbourne.’
It comes as the source of Sydney’s Crossroads Hotel cluster – which now totals 34 – has been identified as a Melbourne man who attended a party at the venue on July 3.
He entered the state before the Victoria-NSW border closed.
Almost 550 fines have been issued since the state returned to stage three lockdown last week.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said police have checked thousands of homes, businesses and public places.
‘The reasons for leaving your premises are well known. I can say that they don’t include playing Pokemon,’ Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said.
He noted two people were fined for playing the game in their car.
A man was also fined for refusing to leave a KFC restaurant, just days after 16 people were fined $26,000 when caught eating KFC at a party in Dandenong.
‘Clearly KFC is popular during the lockdown,’ Mr Nugent said.
The premier said if people don’t follow the rules, restrictions could tighten.
‘How long restrictions are, the nature of those restrictions, how many people have to go to hospital, how many people are in intensive care and how many people ultimately die – that is all the product of how hard we all work,’ Mr Andrews said.
While Mr Andrews and Prof Sutton said Victorians would be given notice of what harsher restrictions looked like if it came to that, the state opposition wants details released now.
There are 1931 active cases in Victoria, with a total of 4448 cases since the pandemic began.