Hopes high that Sydney will dodge lockdown despite search for mystery origin case
Health authorities are still trying to uncover the mystery COVID-19 case at the centre of the current outbreak that has NSW on edge.
But although the hunt is ongoing, there are rising hopes Greater Sydney will dodge a snap lockdown for Mother’s Day after no new cases were found anywhere in the state on Friday from 13,339 tests in 24 hours.
Authorities have firmly turned their attention to Haymarket restaurant XOPP, where it’s thought a man in his 50s from Woollahra — dubbed Patient X after he became the first new case this week — may have crossed paths with the missing link.
Patient X and his wife are the only two confirmed cases in the cluster.
Just 500m from the XXOP restaurant is the Park Royal Darling Harbour quarantine hotel. And on the day Patient X and his wife dined at XXOP, a returned traveller from the US who had the same strain as the couple was in quarantine at the Park Royal.
It’s suspected the traveller may have passed on the virus to a quarantine worker, who may be the missing link.
However it’s not known what role the mystery case played in the hotel quarantine system, making it harder for authorities to find them.
Making matters even worse for contact tracers is the fact that a very low number of diners actually scanned the QR code to “check in” to XOPP when Patient X ate lunch there.
CCTV shows up to 100 guests inside the restaurant but only a handful of them signed in. As a result, anyone who was at XOPP on Wednesday April 28 between 1.30pm and 2.30pm must get tested.
NSW recorded no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
Five new cases were acquired overseas to 8pm last night, bringing the total number of cases in NSW since the beginning of the pandemic to 5,332. pic.twitter.com/gNugxphXAQ
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) May 7, 2021
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the fact there were no new local cases nationally on Friday was promising and urged people to continue getting tested.
“And the more we see the chances are we may see some more cases and we certainly need to work out that chain for the person we know arrived on 24th April … the Sydneysider, and his wife, that have become positive without an obvious link there. But clearly it’s the same virus.”
With the search for the mystery case continuing, masks and increased restrictions will remain in place across Sydney.
Until at least Monday, authorities have ordered those in Greater Sydney, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains to wear masks when at public indoor venues and on transport, and placed limits on the number of visitors allowed in a private home or at public gatherings.
With the centre of the outbreak being a returned traveller, the situation again raises questions about the effectiveness of the hotel quarantine system and procedures currently in place.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, six out of the 150 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in hotel quarantine in the past three weeks were said to have been fully vaccinated overseas before their arrival in Australia.
The six vaccinated cases had received a variety of the different shots available, including both the one-dose Johnson & Johnson jab as well as the two-dose Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna injections.
This highlights the role of the vaccine in reducing the need for hospitalisation due to the virus but a reminder that it doesn’t eliminating catching the disease.
It also raises questions about being able to effectively implement a vaccine passport system for return travellers.