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'Highly likely' hotel quarantine worker who tested positive to Covid caught it at work

NSW Minister Brad Hazzard said the strain is 'definitely not' part of any local outbreaks

A woman who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday 'most likely' caught the virus at the Sydney quarantine hotels where she worked before travelling across Sydney on public transport.

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said results from genome sequencing revealed the virus strain was 'definitely not' part of any local outbreaks - meaning the worker must have acquired the virus from overseas travellers or aircrew that stayed in quarantine.

The state had gone 26 days without any positive tests prior to the woman's infection on Wednesday.

Now NSW Health are scrambling to trace and track the patient's movements to uncover the origin of the infection and protect against a wider outbreak.

The woman who worked at the Novotel and IBIS quarantine hotels in Darling Harbour took a 50km round trip six times on the train between Minto in Sydney's south-west to Central Station and then used the Light Rail from Central Station to Darling Harbour - all while potentially infectious.

All fellow commuters on any of those services need to self-isolate immediately and get coronavirus tests.

The woman has been working at the Novotel and IBIS hotels in Sydney's Darling Harbour where returned travellers have been staying

Mr Hazzard said the results of today's genomic tests is 'good news'.

'It is a massive relief from my point of view as Health Minister,' he said.

'We still have work to do, we still have work to determine which aircrew or person from overseas, possibly in the hotel, managed to transmit it and how to stop it.'

'But as long as we can trace, we can track, we can isolate, that is what our gold standard health teams do. It removes our worries.' 

So far, no other cases have been reported in the community.

The new case came just a day after the NSW government announced plans to begin easing social distancing restrictions.

More rules were slated to be scrapped on Monday, December 7, including the no stand-up drinking rule which had badly hurt pubs.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said those changes would still be going ahead, despite the new case.

The new case comes after NSW began easing more social distancing restrictions following 25 days without any community transmission (Pictured: Gladys Berejiklian)

'There is no change to what we are proposing to do on Monday,' she said. 

'However, I do stress this is an evolving situation and if at any time of the day Dr [Kerry] Chant gives me alternate advice I will not hesitate to take that advice because that is what serves NSW well.'

She said the new case served as a warning to all everyone that they need to maintain vigilance. 

'As further restrictions are eased on Monday, I don't want us to go backwards but if in the next few days the situation changes I will not hesitate to act as the premier.'

Mr Hazzard said having the odd case was to be expected.

'We're in the middle of a pandemic, one has to expect it,' he said.

'We're doing all the investigations, I've woken up Dr [Kerry] Chant this morning and spoken to her early this morning, we're working through the usual issues.

'We've been doing it for 10 months we're quite confident we'll manage it.' 

The woman's five family members, who live in Minto, have returned negative tests.

As a precaution, NSW Health is also conducting wider testing of staff at the hotel complex.

Anyone in the Minto area who have coronavirus symptoms are being asked to get tested (pictured, travellers arriving into Sydney on November 23)

Anyone in the Minto area who has coronavirus symptoms was urged to get tested. 

Services on alert: 

Light Rail:

• Sunday 29 November Capitol Square to Central 4.55pm – 5.03pm

• Monday 30 November Convention to Central 3.10pm – 3.26pm


• Friday 27 November Central to Lidcombe 4.12pm – 4.49pm

• Saturday 28 November Central to Lidcombe 3.31pm – 4.32pm

• Sunday 29 November Central to Lidcombe 5.05pm – 5.44pm

• Monday 30 November Central to Minto 3.28pm – 4.20pm 

The state was just three days away from officially 'eradicating' the virus, defined as 28 straight days without a locally acquired case. 

A similar outbreak in hotel quarantine is what caused the second coronavirus wave in Victoria, which plunged millions into a three month lockdown.

Since the pandemic began, 820 people have died in Victoria - the vast majority of the 908 who died across Australia. 

NSW Health has asked people who used the same public transport services as the infected woman to get tested immediately and self-isolate, until further advised by NSW Health. 

On Wednesday, Gladys Berejiklian announced capacity limits at restaurants, bars, churches and cafes would increase, with the limit of one customer per four-square metres eased to one per 2sqM.

Nightclubs can reopen with up to 50 people allowed on the dance floor at any one time from Monday next week. 

Stand-up drinking will be allowed once again, but only in outdoor settings including beer gardens and rooftop bars.

Revellers in pubs and bars will still have to stay seated at indoor venues.

'The rolling back of restrictions across the state is only possible because of the excellent work of the community who have followed social distancing guidelines and continued to come forward for testing,' Ms Berejiklian said.

But hours later New South Wales Health issued an urgent warning Sydney residents living in 12 suburbs after traces of the virus were detected in sewage testing at a water treatment plant.

The warning was raised on Wednesday after health authorities detected the virus in the sewage system that drains Riverstone, Vineyard, Marsden Park, Shanes Park, Quakers Hill, Oakville, Box Hill, The Ponds, Rouse Hill, Nelson, Schofields and Colebee in the city's north-west.

The alert follows a handful of similar discoveries in sewage water across Australia's east coast in recent weeks despite almost non-existent levels of community transmission. 


Venues (including hospitality venues, retail and places of worship)

1 person per 2sqm, otherwise no maximum limit. Drinking stood up is allowed outdoors.

Stadiums and theatres

Outdoors: 100 per cent seated capacity, and 1 person per 2sqm rule for outdoor seating areas

Indoors: 75 per cent seated capacity

Gatherings in outdoor public spaces

Up to 100 people for outdoor gatherings (increased from 50)

Up to 5000 people for outdoor events that are fenced, ticketed and seated (subject to the 2sqm rule)

Up to 3000 people for other organised outdoor events (subject to the 2sqm rule)

Dance floors

Up to 50 people indoors 

Maximum capacity caps removed (subject to the 2sqm rule) for:

Bookings at hospitality venues



Regional agricultural shows

Corporate events

Religious events  

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