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Face masks to be mandatory in Sydney as Aussie states concerned by linked COVID cluster

Face masks to be mandatory in Sydney as Aussie states concerned by linked COVID cluster

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Sydney [Australia], January 2 (ANI/Xinhua): Wearing face masks will be mandatory in Australia's biggest city of Sydney as locally acquired COVID cases continue to grow.
The state of New South Wales (NSW), with Sydney as the capital city, said on Saturday that face masks will be mandatory in indoor settings such as shopping centers, public or shared transport, indoor entertainment, places of worship, and hair and beauty premises. Staff in hospitality venues must also wear face masks.
The compliance will start from January 4 and people who disobey the rules will face an on-the-spot fine of 200 Australian dollars (about USD 153.7). Children under 12 are exempted but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable, a statement from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
Some other restrictions were also put into effect for Greater Sydney from midnight Saturday, such as a 30-people cap for gym classes, places of worship and religious services limited to 1 person per 4 square meters up to a maximum of 100 people per separate area, a 500-people cap for outdoor performances and protests and no nightclubs.
These new restrictions came after NSW recorded seven locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night, with an additional 12 cases in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
Among the seven local cases, five were from western and south-western Sydney, where a new cluster of cases was growing and aroused the concern of NSW Health. The health department urged people who live or work in the area to get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms.
At the same time, the neighbouring state of Victoria, which experienced months of strict lockdown in 2020 due to the second wave of the pandemic, ran up against community infection again and the number of cases was growing.
On Saturday, Victoria recorded ten locally acquired cases and two internationally acquired cases in quarantine. All the ten local cases were connected to a cluster in a restaurant in southeast Melbourne, making the cluster's total cases into 18.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said genomic sequencing confirmed the state's outbreak was linked to Sydney's cluster.
"It is up to both Victoria and NSW to work together to get on top of it," he said.
Victoria already announced the closure of borders to the whole NSW from midnight Friday. Foley said the "deteriorating situation" in NSW was a "significant concern" and public health advice was likely to change very quickly.
The island state of Tasmania to the south of Victoria, announced on Saturday border closure to nine sites in Victoria and a number of premises in NSW as cases continued to grow in these two states. Travellers who have been to these listed high-risk areas cannot enter Tasmania unless being exempted.
"We will not hesitate to take further action if we need to keep Tasmanians safe," Tasmanian Health Minister Sarah Courtney said. (ANI/Xinhua)

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