Fears over possible new Sydney cluster
There are fears of a new coronavirus outbreak in Sydney's northwest after authorities issued several health alerts over the weekend.
Cherrybrook is at the centre of a small cluster of cases after three students of Tangara School for Girls tested positive.
The first student was identified on Saturday and all students, staff and support staff at the secondary school have been advised to get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate immediately until August 21, even if their test result are negative.
Alerts were also issued for a pharmacy in the area and a church in the neighbouring suburb of Pennant Hills.
It comes after a health worker in nearby Hornsby Hospital's emergency department also tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member worked on Thursday, August 6, from 11am to midnight, but had worn a mask while in contact with patients.
They became unwell after their shift and immediately self-isolated. Other staff in contact with them have also been told to self-isolate for 14 days.
On Sunday, NSW Health said a third Tangara student along with one of her household contacts had tested positive.
The school's secondary campus will close until August 24, although the junior campus will re-open on August 12 for students whose parents need to send them to school.
NSW Health also issued an alert for anyone who visited the PharmaSave Cherrybrook Pharmacy, in Appletree Shopping Centre on Thursday, August 6 between 4pm to 7pm.
A positive case worked at the pharmacy prior to the onset of symptoms, although they were wearing a mask during their shift.
People who were at the pharmacy at the same time are urged to immediately self-isolate and seek testing if they get symptoms.
Earlier that day, St Agatha's church in Pennant Hills was also closed for cleaning after it was found a positive case attended mass from 6.30am and 7am on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
NSW Health said anyone who attended early masses on those days should be alert for symptoms.
OTHER PARTS OF SYDNEY ALSO IMPACTED
Another school was also closed over the weekend, with Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta also moving to remote learning after a student tested positive.
In a note sent to families on Saturday night, the school in Sydney's west said it would be closed for cleaning and while the contact tracing process took place.
An alert has also been issued for customers of Bunnings, Campbelltown who visited the store on August 4, 5 and 6 after an employee tested positive.
On Sunday NSW Health said there were another four cases linked to funeral events in Bankstown and surrounding suburbs, including 15 associated with Mounties in Mount Pritchard. This cluster is now linked to 59 cases.
In total 111 cases have also been linked to Thai Rock Wetherill Park.
Meanwhile 34 cases have been linked to Potts Point in Sydney's inner city, including 28 cases linked to the Apollo Restaurant and six cases linked with the Thai Rock Restaurant Potts Point.
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in NSW since July 1Live Data Source: Health Protection NSW
CONCERN OVER MYSTERY CASES
So-called "mystery cases" continue to be a problem for NSW despite what appears to be an improvement in the state's daily cases, which have dropped to about 10 a day.
On Sunday, NSW Health said that while most cases in the past week were associated with local clusters and close contacts with known cases, 11 were not linked to known cases.
It said this indicates that "COVID-19 is circulating in the community".
The week before only seven cases were from an unknown source.
Experts have noted with concern the rise in the numbers of cases of community transmission.
In the past couple of weeks there has generally been at least one case a day where the source could not be found.
Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely told news.com.au last week that NSW had done extremely well in trying to stamp out the outbreaks in the state but the mystery cases could be a serious problem.
"Through no fault of the contact tracing teams, cracks are appearing - with both outbreaks spread geographically and a handful (and growing) number of 'mystery cases' of local transmission where the source cannot be found," he said.
"This means the virus is spreading without always being detected. This is a serious problem that could quickly turn into a Victoria-like situation."
Last week NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian acknowledged the state was on a "knife's edge" and was about halfway through a critical period.
Speaking to Triple M Sydney's Moonman in the Morning, Ms Berejiklian said there are still about two or three weeks to go before NSW could exit this "critical period".
"We are definitely on a knife's edge, and we are about halfway through what is a really critical period," she said.
"When we realised how bad Victoria's situation was we know we had 4-6 weeks of a real nailbiting situation and we are about half way through."
So far there have been 379 cases in the state where a source could not be found.
NSW Health is currently treating 111 coronavirus cases. Eight people are in intensive care and six are on ventilators.
Originally published as Fears over possible new Sydney cluster