By Renju Jose
SYDNEY (Reuters) – New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, on Monday reported no local cases of coronavirus for the first time in nearly three weeks, as Sydney grapples with several outbreaks and authorities urged scores. Thousands of people have to undergo the examination.
Daily test numbers for New South Wales have dropped to around 20,000 in the past two days from a peak of around 70,000 recorded on Christmas Day, December 25. The vast majority of the tests take place in the state capital, Sydney.
“The numbers are very low … if we are to manage to stay on top of the COVID pandemic, testing is critical so that we can trust the data when we make decisions,” Acting New South Wales Prime Minister John Barillaro told reporters.
Authorities imposed mandatory masks in indoor and on public transport starting Monday for Sydney’s five million residents or face an immediate fine of A $ 200 ($ 154).
New South Wales officials have rejected calls for mandatory face masks since the start of the pandemic and policy change after the recent Sydney outbreak, which appears to be highly contagious, and ahead of the cricket test match between Australia and India in the city set to begin on January 1. 7.
The Australian Cricket Board on Monday reduced the crowd capacity for testing to 25%, about 10,000 spectators, from 50%, amid criticism from health officials that the event would become contagious for the virus.
Australia and India are in the middle of a series of four tests, which are being played against the backdrop of strict health measures, as both sides travel to Sydney for the third test from Thursday.
Two cases linked to a Sydney Fresh group stationed around a liquor store were reported after the daily deadline of 2000 local time. These will be added to Tuesday’s tally.
The low number one cases from a group in the northern coastal suburbs in recent days indicate that a strict lockdown there since mid-December may have effectively eliminated the virus, but the KPMG report said the lockdown had cost the New South Wales economy A $ 3.20 billion ($ 2.46 billion) ) in December .
New South Wales and Sydney, Australia’s largest city, are cut off from the rest of Australia due to state border closures or mandatory 14-day quarantine rules for cross-state arrivals from New South Wales.
Neighboring Victoria, which is also battling new cases in the state capital, Melbourne, on Monday reported three local cases, bringing the state’s active cases to 36.
Australia has largely avoided the high number of new coronavirus cases and deaths compared to other developed countries, but the latest COVID-19 clusters in Sydney have raised fears of a wider outbreak.
It has reported just under 28,500 cases of COVID-19 and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
(1 dollar = 1.2982 Australian dollars)
(Prepared by Ringo Jose; edited by Michael Beary)