Australia’s most populous city entered a two-week lockdown from today as authorities struggle to control an outbreak of the rapidly-spreading Delta variant.
More than 80 cases of the infectious Delta variant have been recorded in Sydney as 5million people are now facing strict stay-at-home restrictions.
Last month, Sydney recorded ‘zero Covid’ cases for consecutive days but this most recent outbreak has been attributed to a Sydney limo driver, dubbed ‘patient zero’ who faced a police grilling over why he refused to wear a mask and was not vaccinated.
Despite Australia’s success in managing the pandemic through swift border closures, social distancing and high compliance, the country’s sluggish vaccine rollout has meant small outbreaks have plagued individual states in recent months.
More than a million people in downtown Sydney were already facing the draconian measures on Friday, as health authorities said they needed to widen the lockdown area as exposure sites had increased.
New rules that will be in place until July 9 mean people can only leave home for essential work, medical care, education or shopping.
Sydney entered a two-week lockdown from today as authorities struggle to control an outbreak of the rapidly-spreading Delta variant
The unnamed driver (pictured) is currently in isolation as he fights his Covid infection and was too ill and too scared of the public backlash to show his face on TV to defend himself
New stay-at-home rules in place until July 9 mean people can only leave their house for essential work, health, education or shopping
New South Wales’ premier Gladys Berejiklian, 50, said: ‘Even though we don’t want to impose burdens unless we absolutely have to, unfortunately this is a situation where we have to.’
‘There was no point doing it for three days or five days because it wouldn’t have done the job,’ Berejiklian told a news briefing.
Today marks Sydney’s first lockdown since December, as the city, and Australia as a whole, had battled against Covid outbreaks.
The country has reported just over 30,400 positive cases and 910 deaths from the virus since data was first tracked.
A huge new list of exposure sites was published by New South Wales health yesterday evening – meaning anyone who attended those venues must immediately test themselves and isolate for 14 days.
Another 17 sites were added to the provincial government’s ever-growing list, including the same pub – The Crossroads Hotel – that was at the centre of a previous outbreak.
In July last year a Melbourne freight worker visited the pub for a party, which resulted in at least 34 cases. He claimed he didn’t know he was sick.
Berejiklian’s conservative state government had been reluctant to impose the draconian measures, but a growing number of health experts called for lockdown as Australia remains largely unvaccinated.
A huge new list of exposure sites was published by New South Wales health yesterday evening – meaning anyone who attended those venues must immediately test themselves and isolate for 14 days. Pictured: High-risk exposure site The Crossroads Hotel in Casula
Resident’s daily lives will again be altered – with indoor sport and weddings banned from Monday.
Funerals are eligible to continue with a maximum of 100 guests and shops remain open.
Police launched a probe after it was revealed an airport limo driver from Bondi – who was earlier accused of being Sydney’s ‘patient zero’ – had refused the AstraZeneca vaccine because of a family history of blood clots and had not been tested daily.
But the man insisted he was wearing a mask at all times while working as a driver transporting air crew from the airport to hotels.
On Friday, NSW Police confirmed they were investigating whether any Covid regulations had been breached by the driver or the company he worked for.
The Sydney Airport driver (pictured) broke his silence to insist he is not the Patient Zero that caused the new flare-up of Delta variant cases in the city
Health orders require those working around the hotel quarantine system to be tested for the virus daily, and the driver admitted he had not been tested on his days off.
His infection was caught when testing resumed when he returned to work – but he had already been out in the community for several days before getting the positive test result.
On Saturday, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller revealed the investigation had now been dropped through a lack of evidence.
The Sydney Airport driver insisted he was not the ‘patient zero’ who caused the new flare-up – instead claiming he caught the virus at his local café.
His claim was dismissed on Saturday by NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant, who said their investigations had found no evidence to support his story.
The unnamed driver is currently in isolation as he fights his Covid infection and was too ill and too scared of the public backlash to show his face on TV to defend himself.
The infected limo driver believed to be ‘patient zero’ claims vividly remembered another customer in his 30s sat near to him at the Belle Cafe in Vaucluse (pictured) on June 12 who was violently coughing and sneezing
The unnamed driver, from Bondi, admits he refused the Astra Zeneca vaccine because of a family history of blood clots
Despite his daily close contact with flights crews, the driver believes he was actually infected with the deadly Delta Covid variant by a customer at his regular coffee stop, Belle Café in Vaucluse in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
He spoke of how he vividly remembered another customer in his 30s sat near to him at the café on June 12 who was violently coughing and sneezing.
The café become an exposure site at the start of the outbreak, with an elderly customer catching the virus there from an infected person.