Health authorities in New South Wales are racing to find the “missing link” between a returned overseas traveller and a man diagnosed with Covid-19 in the community, as new restrictions were announced for the greater Sydney area.
On Thursday the state’s chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said laboratory testing had revealed the community case of a man in his 50s who returned a positive test on Wednesday matched a case who travelled to the state from the US and quarantined at the Park Royal at Darling Harbour, before being moved to Sydney Health Accommodation on 28 April.
But Chant said contact tracers had not identified any location where the pair could have come in contact with each other or any other direct link between the two cases.
“What we’re concerned about is there is another person that is as yet unidentified that infected our [community] case,” she said. “We sometimes never find a missing link.”
The wife of the community case has since tested positive, but nine other close contacts have not.
The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said in response that from 5pm Thursday until 12.01am Monday, restrictions would be implemented in greater Sydney including Wollongong, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains, with visitors to households limited to 20 guests, and masks made compulsory on public transport and in all public indoor venues.
Drinking while standing up at indoor venues will not be allowed, and visitors to aged care facilities will be limited to two people. Dancing will not be allowed at indoor hospitality venues or nightclubs, however dancing is allowed at weddings.
“We know that at least one person has been going around greater Sydney with the virus, we don’t know who they are, we don’t know who they’ve been in contact with, we don’t know where they’ve visited, so as a precaution we’re just asking everybody to use their common sense, wear masks when shopping, wear masks if you’re in an indoor setting and just be safe,” Berejiklian said.
“It’s a very proportionate response. In fact, in other states they would have locked down the whole city, they would have closed businesses, they would have stopped events, they would have said you can’t dance at weddings. We’re not doing any of that.”
CCTV footage is being reviewed to look for clues as to how transmission between the overseas traveller and community case occurred, Chant said.
“As you can imagine, there’s strict procedures around the person being admitted to the quarantine facility and then transferred to our health quarantine facility,” she said. “We can’t find any direct link. What we’ve also identified is because this person arrived on 26 April, it really allows us to narrow down the time that our [community] case was exposed.” He was most likely infected at the end of April, she said.
She urged anyone in NSW with even mild symptoms to come forward for testing. Virus fragments had been detected in Marrickville sewage, and Chant said the missing link “made us even more heightened in our concern about sewage detections”.
Those living in suburbs liked to the sewage system including Dulwich Hill, Marrickville, Summer Hill, Lewisham, Ashfield, Haberfield, Petersham, Lilyfield and Leichhardt, should be extra vigilant for symptoms, she said.
“While my message is to anyone with the most minimal of symptoms to come forward and get tested, we’re particularly calling out those suburbs because of that detection,” she said.