Australia Battles Covid-19 Clusters in Both Sydney and Melbourne

Authorities are battling to contain Covid-19 clusters in Australia’s two largest cities, urging people to avoid large New Year’s Eve gatherings to prevent wider outbreaks.

Ten new cases were reported overnight in Sydney, with a cluster on the Northern Beaches growing to 144, and a second group of infections in the city’s inner west rising to nine, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters Thursday.

Neighboring Victoria state, which had gone 61 days without recording community transmission of the virus, said six cases had been detected. The outbreaks in the two states are likely connected, with a returned traveler from New South Wales attending a Thai restaurant in Melbourne that’s linked to other new infections in the city. Victoria limited household gatherings to 15 people and said mask-wearing at indoor venues would be mandatory from 5 p.m.

“This is a very serious situation,” Victoria state Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters. “Victorians know how wildly infectious this virus can be.”

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The outbreaks are a blow to Australia, which had largely suppressed community transmission through rigorous testing and contact tracing, and by shuttering the international border -- with all returned overseas travelers made to isolate for 14 days in quarantine hotels. Other Australian states and territories have barred Sydney residents from entering, scuppering the travel plans of tens of thousands of people during the peak summer holiday season.

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