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Coronavirus Australia updates live: Sydney COVID-19 cluster concerns grow as ‘mystery cases’ emerge outside the northern beaches


  • NSW recorded seven new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Boxing Day. Six of these were directly linked to the Avalon cluster
  • Testing rates dropped off to 23,933, after laboratories performed 39,133 tests the previous day. NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant is urging people with symptoms to get tested in order to pick up undetected chains of transmission in the community
  • NSW Health is investigating the missing links between several otherwise unconnected cases who attended the Belrose Hotel on different days. Authorities remain concerned by a handful of mystery cases that have no clear link to the Avalon cluster.
  • A 24-year-old man has been arrested after attempting to escape a Melbourne quarantine hotel almost a week after he arrived from Sydney
  • A 49-year-old woman who escaped from a Perth quarantine hotel on Saturday has also been caught and now faces a $50,000 fine or 12 months behind bars

Holidaymakers swap bookings as states close borders

Holidaymakers caught out by the northern beaches coronavirus outbreak and associated state border closures have been swapping accommodation bookings online.

Leesa Jammal started the "COVID restriction holiday swap Australia" group on Facebook last Sunday night and the membership grew to more than 2000 by the end of the week.

Group members are mostly swapping or selling bookings for camping sites or exchanging information about cancellations, but some are seeking to sell or swap bookings for hotels and holiday homes booked through HomeAway and Airbnb.

Read more here.

Many holidaymakers are swapping bookings for caravan parks online.Credit:Michele Mossop

North Bondi house partygoers fined as police issue 15 infringements since Christmas Eve

Police say they have issued 15 penalty infringement notices since Christmas Eve, including to 11 people at a house party at North Bondi on Saturday that breached public health orders.

Just before 11pm on Saturday, police attended a home on Blair Street after receiving multiple noise complaints, where they located at least 40 people at the party, most of whom ran from the home when officers arrived.

Officers spoke with 11 people, including two residents and nine visitors, who remained at the property. Two women – aged 24 and 26 – and nine men – aged 26, 28, 30, 31, 32, 34, and three aged 24 – were subsequently issued $1000 infringements for not complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

The residents were also issued a 28-day noise abatement direction, while the visitors were directed to leave the area.

Inquiries are continuing to identify other partygoers who were in attendance, police said.

In addition, a further two people and two businesses have been issued infringements since Christmas Eve.

  • About 7.40pm on Wednesday, police attended a restaurant on King Street, Newtown, and noted a crowd on the footpath outside the restaurant and a large number of people inside. After speaking with the owner, who stated he did not have a COVID Safe plan, officers determined there were 27 more people than allowed for the space. The owner was given an opportunity to reduce the number of people within the restaurant, however, the capacity was still exceeded. Following further inquiries, the owner was issued a $5000 penalty infringement notice for failing to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. A COVID Safe plan has since been submitted.
  • On Christmas Day, police received information a northern beaches resident attended a home at Bligh Park, in Sydney's west, in breach of the public health order. Following inquiries, police attended the home on Porpoise Crescent and spoke to the 32-year-old Collaroy woman who confirmed she had travelled to Bligh Park in her car on Christmas Eve. She was directed to return to Collaroy and issued a $1000 infringement for failing to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

Fruit baskets empty as labour shortage begins to bite

No state government has come to the table with a plan to bring foreign fruit pickers safely into Australia despite warnings of food shortages and price rises because of a severe shortage of workers.

Just 355 unemployed Australians have joined a federal government program that will see them reimbursed up to $6000 for costs incurred from relocating to take on a short-term agricultural job.

Farmers in Victoria alone estimate they need 26,000 workers within weeks to pick the summer crops that are ripening now.

Fruit and vegetable growers are warning of price rises because of labour shortages.Credit:Dean Sewell

Museums seek pandemic paraphernalia

Heartbreaking messages announcing closures have appeared in thousands of shop windows during 2020 – and they’re among the pandemic-related objects and images that museums are collecting as a record of this extraordinary year.

Future generations will be able to study – and wonder at – supermarket notices directing us to buy just one packet of toilet rolls and photos of cordoned-off playgrounds.

Read more here. 

Tourism sector braces for $3b hit from border closures

The tourism industry is bracing to lose more than half its usual revenue over the Christmas-New Year period because of state border closures, prompting calls for longer-term financial support.

States closed their borders to Sydneysiders – and in some cases all of NSW – in the week before Christmas, throwing holiday plans for many Australians into disarray at a time when the tourism industry is usually at its busiest.

Katina Curtis has the full story here.

The NSW-Victorian border at Albury.Credit:John Russell

Thanks for joining us for today's live coverage

Good morning and welcome to today's live coronavirus coverage.

Here’s a look at the top headlines from the past 24 hours:

  • NSW Health authorities are still searching for the sources of five mystery cases that have been detected outside the northern beaches ares of Sydney. The cases have intensified concerns the virus is spreading in Greater Sydney.
  • More than 16,800 people across NSW have had at least six intimate encounters with an elongated Q-tip all in the name of public health.
  • Authorities are livid that a woman who returned to Perth from Spain managed to escape hotel quarantine and roam the city for 12 hours at the weekend.
  • A Victorian man who was arrested after escaping from his room inside a Tullamarine quarantine hotel on Boxing Day claims he shouldn’t be in quarantine.
  • Almost 250 cars carrying 561 people have been turned away at the NSW-Queensland border since the latest COVID-19 outbreak emerged in Sydney just over a week ago.
  • Californian health officials are bracing for the potential for a new round of infections from Christmas gatherings, though it could take several weeks to determine how bad such a wave would be.
  • In more positive news, European Union countries launched a massive COVID-19 vaccination drive on Sunday as elderly people and medics lined up to be protected against a virus.

Stay with us as we cover these and other stories in more detail throughout the day.

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