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NZ pauses quarantine-free travel from NSW as state records ten new local COVID-19 cases

New Zealand has announced a pause on quarantine-free travel from NSW after ten new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases were recorded in the state, taking the number of infections linked to a Sydney cluster to 21.

The pause, which comes into effect from 9.59pm AEST (11.59pm NZT) on Tuesday, will initially be in place for 72 hours while the source of new infections is investigated.

“This decision follows a public health assessment today which determined that while the overall risk to public health in New Zealand currently remains low, there are still several unknowns,” a release from NZ’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

NSW’s official case tally for Tuesday was five cases, including two announced on Monday. Seven additional cases were detected after the 8pm cut off and will be included in Wednesday’s figures.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced extended mandatory mask restrictions on Tuesday, with all people in Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Shellharbour required to wear a face mask while indoors for an additional seven days.

The three new cases included in Tuesday’s numbers include a woman in her 60s from the Illawarra, a woman in her 40s from Sydney’s northern suburbs, and a woman in her 20s from the eastern suburbs who is believed to have contracted the virus through “fleeting contact” while working at Westfield Bondi Junction.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the first two cases were close contacts of existing cases but said the third was of concern.

In response, health authorities are urging anyone who was in Westfield Bondi Junction, including the car park, at any time between 12 and 18 June to come forward for testing.  

Of the seven cases detected overnight, six are household contacts of previously identified cases and have been isolating.

The seventh case is a child who attends St Charles Catholic Primary School in Waverley and the source of the infection is currently unknown.

Parents are being urged to wait for advice from the school and health authorities to ensure students are able to return home safely. 

“Unfortunately, a number of people who contracted the virus have done so in a very fleeting way,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“A very fleeting exchange or a very fleeting coexistence has actually allowed the virus to transfer and highlights how contagious it is.”

There are currently no plans for a lockdown to be introduced, Ms Berejiklian said, because all but one case has been linked to known infections. 

“If that changes, if we suddenly have a number of unlinked cases and if we suddenly have them outside the geographic region they are concentrated in then we will obviously adjust the health advice and we will respond to that,” she said.

Testing numbers grew to more than 28,000 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, up from 25,000 the previous day. 

Mandatory masks were previously in place across seven Sydney local government areas, including City of Sydney, Waverley, Randwick, Canada Bay, Inner West, Bayside, and Woollahra.

More locations were added to the list of coronavirus exposure sites on Monday night.

The sites include bus routes and locations in the Sydney CBD, Drummoyne, Parramatta, Hurstville, Castle Hill, Merrylands and Baulkham Hills.

Health authorities are urging anyone with even mild cold-like symptoms to come forward for testing and isolate until a result is returned. Residents of Sydney’s eastern suburbs and Wollongong have been asked to be “especially vigilant”.

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