The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has warned residents of greater Sydney to prepare for an increase in restrictions if the outbreak of Covid-19 expands beyond the northern beaches.
Meanwhile travellers coming from NSW to Queensland will require a border pass declaration from 1am on Sunday and Western Australia announced it was reinstating its hard border with NSW.
The Avalon cluster grew to 38 cases up to 8pm on Friday and residents of the northern beaches have entered an enforced lockdown until midnight on Wednesday.
Berejiklian said she expected to announce a similar number, or more, new cases on Sunday to the 23 new confirmed cases reported in Saturday’s figures.
She said health authorities were monitoring the situation and would act on Sunday if there was evidence the virus had spread beyond the northern beaches.
“I should say, to put everybody on notice, we will be considering today after consulting, obviously, the relevant people, whether this time tomorrow we do revert back to some restrictions in greater Sydney,” Berejiklian said.
“I just want to put everybody on notice that that is a possibility and that will depend on the health advice sent to us during the course of the day.”
The lockdown imposed on the northern beaches is similar to the restrictions imposed across the state in March, with residents permitted to leave their homes only for essential purposes such as grocery shopping, exercise, work and medical care.
Gyms and places of worship have closed and hospitality venues are open only for takeaway.
The state government also urged residents of greater Sydney not currently subject to the lockdown to cancel all non-essential gatherings, outings and travel until midnight on Wednesday to give people the best chance possible of “having a good Christmas”.
The premier said authorities did not want the virus to spread outside of the northern beaches or cases to increase to an extent that would lead to tougher measures.
“So can I say to everybody in other parts of Sydney outside the northern beaches, please limit your activity,” Berejiklian said. “We are asking you to do this in good faith.
“If you are planning a night out tonight, we ask you to consider changing those plans and staying at home.
“We want people to stay at home tonight and the next few nights so that we can ensure the virus does not spread.”
Organisers of the Sydney to Hobart are yet to make a call about whether to cancel the yacht race for the first time in its 75-year history. At this stage, the race is still set to go ahead.
But Christmas travel plans for thousands of people have been disrupted.
On Sunday evening the Western Australian premier Mark McGowan said WA’s “low risk” rating for the eastern state had been upgraded to “medium risk”, meaning that it would reinstate the same strict measures seen earlier in the year.
“This has been a difficult decision to make especially given the time of year,” McGowan said. “I understand this will be devastating news for people looking to meet family for Christmas in NSW.”
He criticised NSW health authorities for taking a “whack-a-mole” approach to the outbreak thus far.
“They seem to step on a gym here, or a restaurant there,” he said. “This is causing grief all over Australia so they need to kill the virus in NSW.”
McGowan said WA’s revised border measures had come following an Australian Health Protection Principal Committee meeting, where health chief across the country had received the latest advice.
The only people from NSW able to fly into WA after midnight on Saturday will be those with special exemptions – such as essential health and freight workers.
Meanwhile, the Victorian government warned all of greater Sydney could be declared a “red zone” if the outbreak worsens, meaning they would not be permitted to enter Victoria. That currently applies only to people who have been in the northern beaches area.
People who have been in greater Sydney but not the northern beaches are currently considered to have been in the “orange zone”, meaning they must get tested when they get to Victoria and self-isolate until they receive a negative test.
Victorian contact tracers have identified 70 primary close contacts of northern beaches cases among travellers who have arrived between 11 and 17 December.
“We remain extremely concerned about the outbreak in NSW and the likelihood that it has seeded beyond the northern beaches,” the Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said.
The state has had 50 consecutive days of no local virus transmission and authorities are desperate to protect the hard-won gains in the wake of its devastating second wave.
The Queensland government said on Saturday it hoped to maintain its open border with NSW but there would be random checks of people crossing the border.
Anyone travelling into the state from NSW from 1am Sunday will require a border pass. People who have been in the northern beaches will require an exemption to travel into Queensland and must quarantine for 14 days after their arrival.
Anyone travelling into the state from elsewhere in Sydney or the central coast will have to take a Covid-19 test on arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result.
Queensland health minister Yvette D’Ath said visitors would be able to apply for the passes online from 8pm on Saturday.
“We won’t have barriers up at the borders but what we will be doing is putting electronic signs up that let everybody know they should have a border pass and the police will be doing random audits and checks as people come across the borders,” she said.
The declaration includes information such as previous travel to hotspots, Covid symptoms and contact with known cases.
D’Ath asked Queenslanders intending to travel to NSW to reconsider their plans as more coronavirus cases are likely to be identified in coming days.
On Saturday afternoon, the Tasmanian government announced the greater Sydney region was now considered “medium risk”. From Sunday, anyone travelling to Tasmania from greater Sydney will be required to quarantine for 14 days, either at home or at a government-run hotel at the traveller’s expense.
Only returning Tasmanian residents will be allowed to enter if they have visited the northern beaches.
Gutwein said the number of yacht crew involved in the Sydney to Hobart living on the northern beaches “would make it very challenging for the race to proceed” but added the decision was ultimately one for race organisers.
South Australia is requiring travellers from the northern beaches area to quarantine.
Paul Kelly, Australia’s acting chief medical officer, said residents and businesses on the northern beaches had responded well since the outbreak, noting the community had begun to self-isolate and businesses and places of worship had closed their doors before the lockdown was announced.
“It’s extraordinary, it’s a wonder to watch,” Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.
Kelly said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) – a collective body of health officials from all jurisdictions – was meeting daily again and he was having daily conversations with the NSW chief health officer.
He encouraged Sydneysiders to download the CovidSafe app to help with contract tracing.
Kelly pushed back on the idea of speeding up vaccine delivery to Australia in light of the Sydney outbreak, saying the rollout was still on track for March, pending approval of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
“The rest of the country is doing very well,” he said. “We don’t need an emergency vaccine right now.”