Thu, 06 Aug 2020

SYDNEY, July 15 (Xinhua) -- A COVID-19 outbreak centered around a popular Sydney pub has been identified as originating in the neighboring state of Victoria.

New South Wales (NSW) State officials made the link on Wednesday, however have avoided calls to implement a lockdown of hospitality venues in order to stop the spread.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro told local media on Wednesday that genomic testing had linked the cluster to a strain of the virus emanating from Victoria.

"There is no question the virus has come from Victoria. We don't know where that's seeded, we have been doing the contact tracing," Barilaro told the Seven Network.

Later, NSW's COVID-19 operations manager Jennie Musto confirmed that the most likely source of the cluster was a work function in which one of the attendees had travelled from the Victorian state capital of Melbourne.

Barilaro was resistant to the idea of localised lockdowns in order to stop the cluster spreading further, saying that the economic impact of a return to lockdown was undesirable and that NSW had the facilities to deal with a modest outbreak if one occurred.

"Economically that would have an impact, that would be detrimental and we believe we have the health system in place to deal with the spread," Barilaro said.

"We're not panicked ... remember when we did the first shutdown, we were able to build the health system up from 550 ICU beds to 2,000."

In response to the developments, state leaders in Queensland and the Northern Territory declared parts of Sydney to be COVID-19 hotspots, placing harsh restrictions on anyone who had travelled there in the past two weeks.

Meanwhile a woman in her 90s and a man in his 80s died in Victoria after contracting the virus, taking the country's death toll to 111.

In the past two weeks Victoria has recorded over 2,000 new cases of transmission, spurring concern over the potential for a nationwide second wave of the virus.

NSW, of which Sydney is the capital, saw a much smaller spike in cases, notably a cluster of over 30 cases linked to a popular bar and restaurant venue in the city's outer southwest suburbs.

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