NSW has reported five new cases on Thursday, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces Sydney stadiums can now host up to 50 per cent of their crowd capacity.
The new cases recorded in the 24-hours to 8pm on Wednesday include two people in hotel quarantine and two linked to known clusters.
Ms Berejiklian said the fifth case was a person in the broader community with no known links to confirmed cases and, in all likelihood, will prove to be a false-positive.
The Premier announced the cap of crowds at Sydney’s major stadiums had doubled from 25 per cent capacity to 50 per cent.
Bankwest stadium can now host 15,000 people, the SCG 23,000 and ANZ Stadium up to 40,000 spectators.
The four-square-metre rule still applies and people must wear masks as they arrive, make their way to their seats and leave the venues. COVID marshalls will also patrol the stadiums, Ms Berejiklian said.
“In many ways, a large venue, so long as it has tickets and seats and zones and very specific caveat is able to be a large and controlled event … especially if it is outdoors,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian expected the maximum capacity allowed would only be reached for the one-off yearly events, and would not be reached for any other events.
Minister for Jobs, Investment and Tourism Stuart Ayres said “every time we make changes about one of these restrictions it allows more people to get back to work,” but the public must remain vigilant about following social distancing instructions.
Outdoor stadiums, such as ANZ, will be allowed to be filled to 50 per cent capacity. Credit:Getty Images
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the stadiums would use a “checkerboard seating pattern” to separate spectators who are not in the same close-contact groups to limit the risk of aerosol and droplet transmission.
Mr Ayres said spectators moving around the stadium without face masks will be asked to leave.
He said more work needed to be done between NSW Health and smaller venue operators to allow them to increase their crowd capacity, including Penrith Stadium, McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, the Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney Olympic Park, and Windsor Stadium in Wollongong.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said, from today, “life has returned to normal” for NSW and Victorian border bubble communities.
“People can now go to their favourite restaurants, go to their favourite clubs, do whatever they want to do, but with the proviso: we are still in a COVID environment,” Mr Hazzard said.
Previously Victorians could only cross into the NSW side of the bubble for four reasons: employment, education, health and care.
Among the new cases reported today, one is a healthcare worker from the Concord Emergency Department, taking the Liverpool-Concord hospitals cluster to 21 cases, including eight staff.
Another new case attended the Eastern Suburbs Legion Club, taking that cluster to nine cases. The individual was in isolation while infectious.
The locally acquired case with no known source reported today is from a border community in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District and tested positive in Victoria.
A subsequent test on the person has produced a negative result, but NSW Health is taking a cautious approach and asking the individual and close contacts to remain in isolation, while further testing is undertaken.
Anyone who attended the Five Stars Thaitanic, Casula on Saturday 12 September from 4.20pm to 5.20pm is considered a casual contact and must monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if they develop.
More than 20,000 tests were conducted in the last 24 hour reporting period, a sign testing rates were starting to creep back up in NSW after more than two weeks of low testing numbers.
On Thursday morning Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected reports suggesting the medical expert group leading Australia’s pandemic response had settled on a clear definition of a “COVID hotspot” after a draft proposal from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee was leaked.
The document outlined three categories of geographical areas – COVID-Free Zones, COVID-Controlled Zones, and COVID-Community Transmission Zones (hotspots) – to guide decisions about when to open and close borders.
“I think those reports are overstated,” Mr Morrison said. “I’m not expecting a lot of progress on that by Friday,” when the national cabinet will next meet.
“The Commonwealth has its hotspot definition. I think that’s a sensible definition. I think if other states want to have more extreme definitions then that’s up to them ultimately,” he said.
The Commonwealth’s definition differs substantially from the hotspot category outlined by the AHPPC, which is more vague.
The Commonwealth defines a hotspot as more than 30 locally acquired cases over three consecutive days in metropolitan areas and nine cases in three consecutive days for rural or regional areas.
The AHPPC defines hotspot as an area where the virus is spreading through the community, cases are locally acquired from an unknown source, and “a proportion” of these cases had no known source in the previous 28 days.
Queensland’s Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said he was “disappointed” Mr Morrison had rejected the draft definition for a hotspot trigger.
“If you are going to take the advice of the experts, if you are going to have experts, then you have to at least consider their advice,” Mr Miles said.
“You can’t reject their advice before it even gets considered by national cabinet, which appears to be what Scott Morrison has done here.
“We continue to use the criteria provided by the national health experts, the AHPPC, and that is 28 days, two full incubation periods of no community transmission.”
Victoria’s case numbers continue their downward trajectory, with 28 new cases reported on Thursday, and tragically eight deaths as the state’s hospitals resume elective surgery services.
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World news – Five new COVID-19 cases in NSW, Premier relaxes stadium restrictions