| 12.08,20. 10:37 PM |
NSW Premier warns 'further measures' will be brought in as school coronavirus cluster grows
NSW records 18 new cases of COVID-19
Health authorities in NSW have confirmed 18 new coronavirus infections including two new infections at a cluster connected to a private school in Sydney's north-west.
The Tangara School for Girls outbreak has grown to 19, and NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant conceded tracing the outbreak was "challenging".
Of the 18 new cases, 15 were acquired locally, one is a returned traveller in hotel quarantine and two were infected in Victoria.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced a one-month "grace period" for NSW residents returning from Victoria, who would otherwise be forced to pay $3,000 for mandatory hotel quarantine.
"We feel there are a number of applications on hardship grounds where NSW residents, who may have lost their jobs or have been down there for very tragic family circumstances, want to come back home," she said.
"Of course, you will still need to do your hotel quarantine, but you won't need to pay for it."
NSW health authorities also confirmed residents of the Australian Capital Territory were permitted to drive through NSW to return home, as long as they completed the journey within the next five days.
Drivers have been ordered not to stop for refuelling during the trip in NSW, which can only take place between the hours of 9:00am and 3:00pm and until August 17.
After arriving in the ACT, re-entry to NSW will not be permitted for 14 days.
The source of the cluster from Tangara, in Cherrybrook, remains under investigation, but health authorities are probing a retreat organised by the nearby Eremeran Hills Study Centre.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Tangara rejected any responsibility for the retreat.
"Eremeran is a third-party provider of after school care, a homework centre and other activities and retreats for the community," the spokesperson said.
"Bookings are undertaken directly with the organisation and the school plays no role in organising or monitoring attendees.
The spokesperson said the school had not organised extracurricular school activities and camps since March.
Ms Berejiklian reinforced that any extra-curricular school activities, like overnight camps, "shouldn't occur".
"We know the rules we've put in place, the strong advice that we've provided works, so long as it is applied across the board," she said.
"Compliance is absolutely critical.
"If we don't see a greater uptake in the next little while, we will consider further measures in which we can see that uptake."
Eremeran said five girls from years 10 and 11 had attended a retreat at a venue in Bargo, 100km south-west of Sydney.
The centre is now closed but none of its staff had tested positive.
"We are continuing to assist NSW Health in their endeavours to ascertain whether the retreat may have contributed to the outbreak," the centre said in a statement.
Two people infected with COVID-19 and linked to the Tangara outbreak also visited the Wildginger restaurant in Huskisson on the South Coast on Saturday, August 8, from 7:45pm to 10:30pm.
The restaurant is now closed.
Patrons and staff who were there at the same time must isolate for 14 days and get tested, the local health authority said.
Dr Chant said it could take weeks to identify the source and "pieces of the puzzle" around the Tangara outbreak.
She said she was unable to divulge details about the retreat but reiterated current health advice.
"We know camps and events that take children into more household environments are at greater risk of transmission," Dr Chant said.
She added activities such as "singing or chanting" created a greater risk of transmission.
Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta has also been closed, after a third case was recorded there, but NSW Health said it was not linked to the previous two infections there earlier this year.
As a precaution staff and students have been told to isolate for 14 days and get tested.
The school will be closed until August 24.
Parramatta Public School is also closed today after a student tested positive.