SYDNEY: Dancing, singing and chanting were banned across Sydney in a fresh round of restrictions introduced on Sunday (Dec 20) as Australian authorities raced to control a growing COVID-19 outbreak in the city.
Australia's most populous state of New South Wales recorded 30 new COVID-19 cases as an outbreak in Sydney's Northern Beaches suburbs continued to grow.
About a quarter of a million people were put on Saturday into a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve, with the Northern Beaches cluster now at about 70, with some of the cases still under investigation.
New South Wales state - which incorporates Sydney - on Sunday announced bans on dancing, singing and chanting at indoor venues across the city except at small weddings and religious services.
"It is the season when we all love to be singing," state health minister Brad Hazzard said.
"But for the moment, it is probably one of the most dangerous exercises you can do, dancing and singing."
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said public gathering across the rest of Sydney will be limited, with household gatherings capped at 10 participants and hospitality venues at 300, among other restrictions.
"Police will obviously have a more visible presence to ensure that everybody does the right thing to keep us all safe," Berejiklian said at a televised press conference.
She also urged people in the greater Sydney area to wear masks in public, although it was not mandatory.
"If you're going grocery shopping anywhere in NSW, please wear a mask, if you're going to a place of worship in NSW, please wear a mask ... and for goodness sake, do not get on public transport unless you're wearing a mask."
Officials have promised to review the rules on Wednesday in the hope some restrictions can be lifted before Christmas Day.
BORDER RESTRICTIONS ISOLATE CITY
The neighbouring states of Victoria and Queensland have also banned people arriving from Sydney as of Monday.
"If you are from greater Sydney now is not the time to travel to Queensland," Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told a news conference.
South Australia state imposed a 14-day quarantine for Sydney arrivals on Sunday and banned travellers from affected suburbs. The island state of Tasmania took a similar steps on Saturday.
Western Australia state imposed a hard border closure.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said the ban of travellers from Sydney was to protect the state's streak of 51 days of no new local coronavirus cases.
The authorities do not know the origin of the virus in the northern beaches cases, which genome testing suggests is a US strain.
"It is a concern to us that health experts are yet to identify how the cluster was transmitted into the community or hot it started," Berejiklian said.
Until this week, Australia had gone more than two weeks without any local transmission and had lifted most restrictions ahead of Christmas. The Sydney outbreak prompted states and territories to reimpose border restrictions, throwing thousands of families' holiday travel plans into chaos.