NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called on the federal government to reconsider the long-term suspension of international travel, saying a Pacific bubble should be established this year.
Ms Berejiklian’s push for a faster approach to international travel during the pandemic comes after Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly this week said it would be “one of the last things to change” after a coronavirus vaccine rollout.
“There is no reason why we shouldn’t aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific Islands well within the next 12 months,” Ms Berejiklian told the Herald on Wednesday.
Professor Kelly warned on Tuesday Australia had to be cautious in restarting international travel given the country was in an “envious position” compared to most of the world.
However, he added Australia was reviewing the health risk of neighbouring countries in the Pacific, while also in “close discussions” with New Zealand, whose residents are allowed into Australia.
NSW recorded no new local coronavirus cases for the third day in a row on Wednesday, prompting Ms Berejiklian to flag that restrictions will most likely be eased next week.
After 19,959 tests were recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday – nearly double that of the previous day – the Premier said the health advice was restrictions could start to be eased to what they were before the northern beaches outbreak in December.
“The best advice is that we should wait another week before we ease restrictions, but I do want to assure the community that the government’s intention is to get as close to pre-Avalon conditions as possible next week,” she said.
Previously, government and health authorities have said the state has a target testing rate of 25,000 to 30,000 a day.
Before the Avalon cluster emerged on Sydney’s northern beaches in mid-December, 50 people were allowed to gather in a home, and restaurants and pubs could host one patron per two square metres.
Currently, only five visitors are allowed at a home and the capacity of hospitality venues has halved.
Masks in some settings, such as on public transport, would probably remain in place, the Premier said, noting she wanted people to have the confidence to “move around as much as possible” while commuting for work or other travel.
She added that the possibility more contagious variants of coronavirus could enter the community, as occurred in Brisbane earlier this month, was a reason to keep mask wearing mandatory.
NSW recorded three cases in hotel quarantine during the latest reporting period to 8pm on Tuesday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 4890.
Concerns were raised on Wednesday amid reports an 82-year-old woman attended Macquarie University Hospital for elective surgery last week, despite being directed to self-isolate as a close contact of a coronavirus case until January 24.
“Macquarie University Hospital was made aware by authorities that a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case had attended the hospital,” a spokeswoman for Macquarie University said.
The contact had not disclosed their proximity to the confirmed COVID-19 case and, following the disclosure from authorities, we took steps to identify staff that may have come into contact with the patient as well as informing NSW Health.”
The woman has tested negative for coronavirus twice and NSW Health said no hospital staff have been directed to self-isolate following the incident.
A NSW Health spokesperson said the advice for people directed to self-isolate is that it is permitted to seek urgent medical care but non-urgent medical care, such as elective surgery, should be rescheduled.
In a separate incident at the hospital, police have charged a man with assault occasioning actual bodily harm after he allegedly attacked a nurse at the drive-through coronavirus testing clinic.
The 43-year-old man attended the clinic on Friday morning as a passenger in a car. He was asked to extinguish his cigarette before he allegedly became verbally abusive and threw a coffee cup at the nurse before the car drove away.
She suffered a minor laceration under her eye and red marks to her cheek, police said.
A man was also charged in Castle Hill on Tuesday night after allegedly refused to wear a face mask before becoming aggressive towards police.
Police said the man, who was waiting at Castle Hill Metro Station, told two female police officers it was a violation of human rights to make him wear a mask, before he became physically violent and punched one of the officers several times.
(Source: Sydney Morning Herald)