Two infectious COVID-19 cases travelled to Byron Bay from Queensland
The COVID-19 virus may have spread across the Queensland border into NSW after two cases travelled to Byron Bay and visited venues popular with holidaying Sydneysiders while unknowingly infectious.
The two new cases – a nurse working in a COVID-19 ward and her sister – travelled to Byron Bay from Queensland before they tested positive for the virus but during their infectious period.
They visited Byron Bay Beach Hotel on Friday, March 26 between 7.15pm and 8.30pm, and The Farm, Byron Bay on Sunday, March 28 between 8am and 9.30am.
Anyone who attended the venues at these times should be tested immediately and self-isolate until NSW Health provides further information, the ministry said.
Queensland’s Health Minister Yvette D’arth said she would call NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard following her morning press conference on Monday.
NSW Health said urgent investigations and contact tracing is underway and has advised against non-essential travel to Greater Brisbane.
The ministry is urging anyone in the Byron Bay area with even the mildest of symptoms to come forward for testing.
News of the cases comes on the first day of renewed freedom for NSW residents. From Monday, face masks – though strongly recommended – are no longer mandatory on public transport. There are no caps on visitors to homes, or attendees at wedding and funerals and dancing is again permitted at all venues.
Thousands of revellers are expected to travel to Byron Bay in the coming days to attend Bluesfest from Thursday, April 1 to Monday, April 5.
The festival’s COVID-19 safety plan currently allows people to flow freely between stages and performances held in big top tents. Face masks are not mandatory and the recommended mode of travel is local buses and shuttles.
Two new COVID-19 clinics have been set up – a drive-through at Cavanbah Sports Ground, and a Walk-in pop-up clinic at Byron Bay Surf Club.
The existing clinic at Byron Central Hospital will extend its operating hours to 9am-6.30pm, seven days a week. Nearby testing clinics at tweed and Ballina will also extend their operating hours.
NSW Health will provide further updates throughout the day.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said the COVID-19 positive nurse and her sister were detected on Sunday night and the source of their infections is under investigation.
“We will have to wait for genome sequencing results that we should get back late today or tomorrow morning which will make it clear,” Dr Young said.
They were among four new locally acquired COVID-19 cases reported by the Queensland government on Monday morning.
The new cases triggered a three-day lockdown in Brisbane from 5pm on Monday, with masks to be mandatory across Queensland after confirmation that an infectious COVID-19 case travelled to Gladstone, about 500 kilometres north-west of the state capital.
“This is a huge job now that we have to do because we’ve got more of this community transmission,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“We have Easter coming up, we have school holidays coming up but let’s do it now and let’s do it right and let’s see if we can come through it at the other end,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
NSW Health reported no new locally acquired cases in the state from 8,204 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.
Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.