A positive case of COVID-19 has sent a Bondi backpackers hostel into lockdown as case numbers continue to climb in NSW.
Health authorities carried out on-site testing on Thursday evening at Noah’s Backpackers Bondi and asked 90 residents to isolate in their rooms until they receive a negative result.
A spokesperson for South Eastern Sydney Local Health District said the test results would be due back within 24 hours and Omicron was not suspected.
Police reportedly cordoned off the building and staff on site were spotted wearing personal protective equipment.
It’s not the first time Noah’s Backpackers has had a COVID scare, after it was temporarily shut down in April 2020 when people were seen gathering on the balconies and ignoring social distancing rules.
Nine News also reported the hostel had a COVID cluster in late September.
NSW recorded 516 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, eclipsing yesterdays numbers which were reported to be the highest since October.
The state reported eight more locally acquired cases with the Omicron variant yesterday, bringing the total to 42 including three cases linked to a Sydney Harbour cruise over the weekend.
The rising case numbers have raised questions about whether Australians will be able to visit family for the Christmas period, as more clusters emerge from end-of-year gatherings, pubs, clubs and parties.
When asked if Australians will be able to travel freely over the Christmas period at a press conference this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that would now depend on how hospitals are impacted, not case numbers.
“What we’ve already seen in New South Wales and in Victoria is that the hospital systems have managed incredibly well as those states have opened up,” he said, adding that the matter would be discussed further during today’s national cabinet meeting.
“We are still learning a lot about this Omicron variant and we’ll be talking more about that today with premiers and chief ministers.
“… Our plan is to keep moving forward, not to go back. We’re not looking in the rear vision mirror, we’re not going back to what Australians have had to go through.
“We’re going to go forward and we’re going to live with this virus. And the reason we can do that is because of the decisions we’ve taken, the achievements that have been made in the vaccination programme, the strength of our economy, the resilience of our people.”
At the same press conference, secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health Professor Brendan Murphy said the information coming out of South Africa, where the variant is thought to have originated, suggests it has not caused a high incidence of hospitalisation and severe disease.
“But we still need to learn more. We have to get information from other countries who now have significant clusters of this virus,” Murphy said.
“We don’t know how it will spread in Australia, but we do know that it is here and certainly in Sydney, and it is likely to spread. But we don’t need to panic.”
However, even if borders stay open, NSW’s climbing case numbers put those living in the state at greater risk of spending Christmas in self-isolation.
Currently, those considered a close contact of a person infected with the virus must isolate for seven days, testing on the first and sixth day.
However, fears over the Omicron variant seem to have prompted a more cautious approach, with the Syndey Morning Herald reporting that in some cases every person who attended the same venue as an infected person has been considered close contacts.
In Victoria, which recorded 1,206 new cases of COVID-19 this morning, social contacts only need to isolate until they receive a negative result, however, household contacts must isolate for seven days if they’re vaccinated and 14 days if they’re not.
Featured image: noahs-bondi.squarespace