Wet weather and social gatherings are being blamed for rising COVID-19 case numbers in NSW, more than seven weeks after the state’s “Freedom Day”.
- The Golden Sheaf Hotel, Oxford Tavern and Albion Hotel have been hit with outbreaks
- Backpackers at a Bondi Beach hostel were forced into isolation
- An expert says the bad weather is keeping people indoors, creating high-risk settings for transmission
Yesterday, the state recorded 516 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 — the highest daily total in more than two months.
NSW residents had been told to expect an uptick in infections once restrictions were lifted, but case numbers, hospitalisations and intensive care admissions have remained stable.
Health authorities say the increases are being driven by pubs, clubs and end-of-year parties.
“What we’ve been observing is increased transmission in larger social venues such as pubs, clubs and party settings,” Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said on Wednesday.
There have been recent outbreaks at the Golden Sheaf Hotel at Double Bay, the Oxford Tavern at Petersham and the Albion Hotel at Parramatta.
In Sydney’s east, 90 people were forced to isolate in their rooms at Noah’s backpackers hostel at Bondi Beach after a COVID-19 case was detected.
Epidemiologist Angela Webster said there were many factors contributing to the rising cases.
“People are coming together more and celebrating the end of the year,” Professor Webster said.
“We’ve seen a lot more movement, people have been drifting back to work, we know people have been socialising more, and we’ve had bad weather so people have been in inside venues a lot more.”
She said the persistent rain, driven by the La Niña weather event, was creating a higher risk setting for the spread of the virus.
“The impact of the weather of course is that people don’t want to be outside and they close doors and windows.
“And so when people have been coming together to celebrate the end of the year, they’ve been doing more so in indoor environments that may not be well ventilated.”
Last weekend, a party boat cruise on Sydney Harbour with more than 100 people on board, resulted in at least 11 COVID-19 cases.
Professor Webster said that cruise took place on a rainy day so attendees were in the inside area with doors and windows closed.
Health authorities are urging anyone with symptoms not to attend social gatherings.
They’re also recommending that people consider taking at-home rapid antigen tests if attending a large social function.
The seven-day moving average in hospitalisations is holding steady, though there is usually a lag period between rising cases and a corresponding rise in hospital admissions.
Professor Webster said having such a high proportion of adults fully vaccinated meant that people might not become so unwell.
The wearing of masks and the use of QR codes to check into venues is being scaled back when restrictions ease on December 15 for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people.
Professor Webster said people could still continue to take measures like mask-wearing to protect themselves.
She also said people could avoid indoor venues that weren’t well-ventilated.
“I certainly will still be wearing a mask when I go to the supermarket or when I go to crowded places.
“I will avoid indoor venues which aren’t well ventilated but it doesn’t mean I won’t have fun.”
Professor Webster attended a work Christmas party yesterday afternoon, which she said took place outdoors.