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Delta force: 16 new cases as rogue variant leaves another school holidays in tatters

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Sydney has recorded 16 new COVID cases ahead of the school holidays, with much of Sydney now to be subject to travel restrictions. The dangerous Delta variant of COVID-19 is still circulating in the city – and has already spread in Queensland.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today said that, from 1am tomorrow, Queensland would close the border to residents from the City of Sydney, Woollahra, Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick council areas, in addition to the Waverley area already restricted. Victoria has imposed similar travel restrictions.

The decision – which could yet affect more council areas – will also require any Queenslanders returning from those areas to enter mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days. People who have been to any one of hundreds of exposure sites are being ordered to isolate.

Police will be patrolling the border in an effort to prevent quarantine breaches, and Palaszczuk said the new COVID-19 check-in requirements being imposed next week were focussed on the fast-spreading Delta variant.

“This Delta variant is of grave concern now,” Palaszczuk said.

“It’s obviously becoming the dominant virus across the world and of course it spreads rapidly.”

With another 16 cases confirmed in Sydney, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today called on people in affected areas to “abandon non-essential activities” but stopped short of ordering a lockdown.

“We apologise in advance that this impact some people’s ability to travel during the school holidays but these measures mean you have to go further at this stage,” Berejiklian said.

“We’re not going restrict people’s movement or what they do but we will restrict if you live or work in the seven (council areas), don’t go beyond metropolitan Sydney unless utterly essential.”

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard implored Sydney-siders to wear masks as he described “a very real and present danger not just in a shopping centre but right across Sydney”.

“We need all take this seriously,” Hazzard said.

“We each have the future of our fellow NSW residents and Sydney residents in our hands.”

The only new case of COVID-19 in Queensland overnight involved a person who returned from Zambia and was found to have the Delta variant in hotel quarantine.

However, Queensland Health has discovered other recent cases of the Delta variant detected in hotel quarantine were not imported from overseas. An infected traveller somehow passed the virus to a couple staying in an adjacent room on the fifth floor at the Brisbane Airport Novotel.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said it was once thought that 15 minutes of close contact was all it took to spread the virus, but with the Delta variant it is as little as 5-10 seconds.

Some 30 people still in quarantine on the fifth floor will have their stay extended as a precaution, while Queensland Health is also contacting anyone who has recently left, and will review arrangements.

The virus recently spread between floors in hotel quarantine, prompting Deputy Premier Steven Miles to again demand the Commonwealth commit to regional quarantine facilities.

“Hotel quarantine is not proving as effective as it was with earlier strains,” Miles said, having advocated for a purpose-built facility at Toowoomba’s Wellcamp airport.

After Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed disappointment a couple in hotel quarantine in Sydney could not be allowed to visit a dying family member on the Gold Coast, Queensland Health is now set to “facilitate” any official request from NSW to release the pair.

However, Palaszczuk suggested Morrison had departed from nationally accepted standards, at a time when the Commonwealth may yet declare Sydney a hotspot. She said National Cabinet would discuss any relaxation of the standard while it continues to debate the need for regional quarantine facilities.

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