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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 January 2021

CORONAVIRUS

No singing in Sydney as Covid-19 cases rise

Restrictions tightened as Australian city reports 30 more cases

Residents of the northern beaches queue up for Covid-19 tests at a roadside testing centre in Sydney on December 20, 2020. AFP
Residents of the northern beaches queue up for Covid-19 tests at a roadside testing centre in Sydney on December 20, 2020. AFP

Dancing, singing and chanting were banned across Sydney in a fresh round of restrictions introduced on Sunday as Australian authorities raced to control a growing coronavirus outbreak in the city.

As hundreds of thousands of people on Sydney's northern beaches awoke to the first day of a snap lockdown, authorities announced another 30 coronavirus cases had been detected in the area.

That brings the Covid-19 cluster in Australia's most populous city to 68 cases since it emerged on Thursday, causing alarm among health officials, who issued stay-at-home orders for several beachside suburbs.

New South Wales state – which incorporates Sydney – on Sunday announced bans on dancing, singing and chanting at indoor venues across the city except at small weddings and religious services.

"It is the season when we all love to be singing," state health minister Brad Hazzard said.

"But for the moment, it is probably one of the most dangerous exercises you can do, dancing and singing."

Sydney restaurants, bars and cafes will be forced to limit patron numbers to 300 people, while caps have also been placed on visits to homes.

Mask-wearing is being encouraged but has not been made compulsory.

About a quarter of a million people in Sydney's northern beach suburbs where the outbreak has occurred have been put into a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve. Officials have promised to review the rules on Wednesday in the hope some restrictions can be lifted before Christmas Day.

The latest outbreak has thrown Christmas plans into disarray, as many Australians who hoped to reunite with family after long separations were forced to cancel travel after new domestic border closures.

On Sunday, Victoria and South Australia became the latest states to announce Sydney residents would be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days on entry.

The island state of Tasmania took a similar step on Saturday, while Western Australia state imposed a hard border closure.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said the NSW-Victoria border closure was to protect the state's streak of 51 days of no new local coronavirus cases.

"There could be many more cases, not just in the northern beaches but in other parts of Sydney," Mr Andrews said.

The outbreak in Sydney forced the cancellation of the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race for the first time in 76 years. Australian cricket authorities are considering swapping the third and fourth Tests against India, to be played in Sydney and Brisbane next month, because of state border closures.

The origin of the outbreak remains unknown, with genome testing suggesting the virus is a US strain.

Australia has largely been successful in containing the virus, taking an aggressive approach centred on imposing early and often far-reaching restrictions in response to new outbreaks.

The country has recorded just over 28,100 Covid-19 cases and 908 deaths in a population of about 25 million.

Coronavirus around the world

Updated: December 20, 2020 02:46 PM

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