Australia’s largest city of Sydney told to brace for more COVID-19 cases

(Reuters) – Australia’s largest city of Sydney should brace itself for more COVID-19 cases, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned on Friday, as authorities rushed to contain a new virus cluster in the city’s northern coastal suburbs.

About a quarter of a million residents in the affected suburbs in Sydney have been asked to stay home for three days and people from outside areas urged not to visit as authorities set up more emergency testing centres.

“We’re bracing ourselves for more cases today, no doubt about that…. the next 24-48 hours will be critical,” Berejiklian told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television.

“We’re taking this extremely seriously. We want to get on top of it as soon as we can, to give people as normal a Christmas as possible.”

Berejiklian said the original source of the virus was an international strain and that genomic experts were trying to find how it reached the local community.

The number of coronavirus cases jumped to 17, authorities said late on Thursday just hours after reporting two new cases.

New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, have been easing social distancing curbs in recent days due to low or no local cases. The new cluster has prompted other states to tighten their internal borders.

Australia has reported just over 28,000 coronavirus cases and 908 deaths since the pandemic began and estimates most active cases in the country are returned overseas travelers in hotel quarantine.