National cabinet to convene as much of Australia grapples with COVID-19 outbreaks

The highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus has authorities across Australia concerned.

The highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus has authorities across Australia concerned. Photo: Getty

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will soon hold an urgent meeting to respond to coronavirus outbreaks across the country.

His office confirmed the national security committee will hold emergency talks on Monday “to consider the outbreaks” in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

State and territory leaders will also be summoned to an unscheduled national cabinet hook-up.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said national cabinet would discuss the best response to the growing outbreak.

“The Prime Minister has called a meeting of the national cabinet to bring the state and territory leaders in to line [with their] responses, because we have seen border closures and we’ve also seen how dangerous this new Delta strain is, because it’s a lot more contagious than previous strains,” he told Sunrise on Monday.

Mr Frydenberg said the COVID outbreaks, restrictions across the country and the vaccine rollout would all be on the agenda.

He said the country was entering a new phase in its fight against the virus.

“This is a critical time because we’re dealing with the new Delta strain, which is more contagious, more dangerous,” he said.

Meanwhile, NSW is bracing for more COVID cases after it was revealed infectious people had been at Sydney Airport on several public transport routes.

Fresh health warnings for NSW residents

Millions of people in greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong​, and Shellharbour have woken to their second full day of a two-week lockdown.

Total cases connected to the Bondi cluster ballooned to 110, after 30 more were confirmed on Sunday.

The last time NSW had that many positive test results was in December 2020, during the Northern Beaches outbreak.

More cases are expected on Monday after NSW Health declared more than a dozen new exposure sites late on Sunday.

The food court in Sydney Airport’s T2 Domestic terminal in Mascot, the 7-Eleven in Croydon Park, the Tong Li Supermarket in Eastgardens and the Burger and Salad Haus in Sydney Olympic Park are among 10 venues visited by confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Infectious people also used the light rail from Chinatown to Wynyard, and from Surry Hills to Chinatown last Wednesday, as well as trains from Central to Mascot on Thursday and Friday.

Lockdown breaches

NSW Police issued more than 15 fines for offences on the first night of the citywide lockdown, including an eastern Sydney family who had travelled to the Hunter for a sports event and an Illawarra cafe owner who refused to wear a mask.

A man and a woman were each fined $1000 at Bondi Beach on Sunday for breaching virus rules.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the early anecdotal evidence was that people were so far mostly abiding by rules. The Premier said she “did not regret a single decision” she had made about the outbreak so far, including delaying a citywide lockdown.

“I have never cared about what people think about me,” Ms Berejiklian said. “I care about keeping people safe.”

A TND reader was alarmed to see Sydney shoppers allowed to purchase so much toilet paper.

Australia grapples with multiple outbreaks

On Sunday, the Northern Territory reported four new cases, with the government imposing a 48-hour lockdown for Darwin and surrounding areas.

The outbreak was sparked by the positive case of a mine worker at the Newmont-owned Granites gold mine in the Tanami desert, about 540 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs.

More than 1600 people have been ordered into isolation as a result.

It is believed the active cases are likely to involve the highly contagious Delta variant and more infections are expected.

In Western Australia, a woman who returned from visiting Sydney picked up the virus, prompting increased restrictions including indoor mask use.

And in Queensland, there were three local cases. That includes the NT miner who was infectious in the Sunshine Coast community and a couple linked to the existing Brisbane cluster.

Health authorities are tracking hundreds of passengers from five Virgin flights between Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast on Friday and Saturday.

The alert was raised after a Sydney flight attendant tested positive to COVID, and was possibly infectious on Friday and Saturday.

Outbreaks prompt tighter restrictions

The outbreaks prompted state leaders to tighten travel rules, including South Australia’s closure to all jurisdictions except Victoria and Tasmania.

WA has declared people coming from Queensland, NT and ACT must isolate for 14 days. Victoria added greater Darwin to its “red zone” list.

All states had already locked out greater Sydney residents.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Sunday had been a challenging day for Australia, while Labor emphasised the government’s failures in establishing permanent quarantine facilities and procuring vaccines.

“The Morrison government had two jobs this year – effective national quarantine and the rollout of the vaccine, and they have failed both,” Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said.

Mr Hunt sought to remind Australians the pandemic was global, noting Britain had 18,000 new cases on Saturday.

-with AAP

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