Virus concerns on the rise as Sydney cluster grows

Former Tumut Mayor and current SVC councillor Geoff Pritchard is continuing to sound the alarm about the Covid-19 pandemic and its potential spread.

No new cases of Covid-19 have been reported within the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) for 16 days, with the northern beaches outbreak in Sydney growing to 83 and reigniting a number of new restrictions and border rules.

Yesterday 15 new cases linked to the northern beaches cluster were reported, down from the 30 cases reported on Sunday.

Monday also marked a record day of testing for New South Wales.

“More than 38,000 people came forward to get tested, so thank you so much to everybody who did that,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The northern beaches area is set to find out on Wednesday whether they will be spending Christmas in lockdown.

How the outbreak began is still a mystery, with health authorities continuing to investigate how the virus spread from the United States to the northern beaches.

“We know a woman got off a flight from Los Angeles on 1st December. She went straight into hotel quarantine but her genomic sequencing indicates it is extremely close to the strain of the virus that is circulating on the northern beaches,” Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on ABC TV on Monday.

“She is certainly a person that we have got to look more closely at. How could it have possibly got from her to the beaches when she is still in a quarantine hotel? It is a human system.

“People have to accept this is a human system and if someone picked up a bag by mistake and then put it down, it could be anything that she might have handled. 

“It just could be anything at all on that front. We don’t know the answer at this point.”

On Monday the Premier said that some people who contracted Covid-19 travelled “outside of the northern beaches”, so there is some potential of spreading.

Despite this, she said it was “pleasing” that Monday’s cases were “a reduction on the previous day’s numbers.”

“To date, every single case we’ve had has been linked to the Avalon cluster, and that’s how we want to keep it,” Ms Berejiklian said. 

“Although, obviously some venues outside of the northern beaches have been impacted and there are issues that health officials are going through today.”

Snowy Valleys Councillor and former surgeon Geoff Pritchard is continuing to sound the alarm, warning that Covid is far from over and its threat to the Snowy Valleys could be ramping up.

“My particular concern is that many people from Sydney will be changing their holiday plans and not going to the Gold Coast or to Victoria and they will be looking at other places to go to, so I anticipate there’ll be a big influx of out of towners,” said Cr Pritchard.

“I know people think I’m a scaremonger, but I’ve been involved in health all my life, so I’ve had a lot to do with infection.”

Dr Pritchard formerly worked in the Prince Henry Hospital, then an infectious disease hospital, and said he’s been disappointed that the attitude towards Covid seems to be softening.

“The only way this outbreak can go is to get worse and longer. We just can’t afford to let our guard down,” he said.

Cr Pritchard is urging local residents to be vigilant about social distancing (“Which means we shouldn’t be doing the elbow bumping which gets you to less than half the recommended social distancing,” he said) and hand sanitisation. He especially wants SVC residents and holiday makers to carry sanitizing wipes to the supermarkets and petrol stations.

“We’re going to get an overflow of visitors,” he said.

The Pritchard family will be having a quiet Christmas on their own, forgoing any visits to – or from – family in Sydney.

“We’ll just take the dog for a walk and nothing much else,” said Cr Pritchard. “I think that we have to continue meeting by Zoom. This is not going to go away. The danger is going to be there for a long time.”