Australian COVID-19 cluster slows to five-day low

FILE PHOTO: Customers sit at a restaurant on the first day of eased New South Wales coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, allowing up to 10 patrons to sit at a time inside establishments previously only open for take-away, in Sydney, Australia, May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

(Reuters) -Australia’s most populous state on Tuesday reported its lowest one-day rise in new COVID-19 cases in nearly a week, fuelling optimism that contact tracing and social distancing were working to bring a dangerous new outbreak in Sydney under control.

New South Wales (NSW) reported eight new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, down on 15 reported one day earlier. Seven of the new cases were traced to a cluster in Sydney’s northern beachside suburbs, officials said.

“We only had eight cases of community transmission, seven of them linked directly to the Avalon cluster,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

The eighth case was a nurse who is believed to have caught the virus from a traveller returning from overseas, officials said.

The coronavirus cluster detected in Sydney’s northern beaches suburbs last week has now grown to 90 cases as authorities battle to contain the flare-up in Australia’s largest city just days before Christmas.

The state government locked down the northern beaches, home to more than 250,000 people, for five days from Saturday, prompting other states to close their borders and throwing Christmas plans for thousands of families into chaos.

The restrictions are set to be reviewed on Wednesday.