Sydney news: COVID outbreak in Redfern social housing towers

© Provided by ABC Business A COVID testing clinic has been set up at Redfern’s public housing blocks. (Supplied)

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

COVID cluster at Redfern towers

NSW Health has confirmed there’s an emerging COVID-19 cluster across three social housing towers in Redfern, with 12 people so far testing positive to the virus.

The three Redfern public housing towers are home to more than 630 people.

Letters were put under their doors in recent days telling them there had been confirmed COVID-19 cases in the buildings over the past fortnight.

All other residents have been deemed casual contacts and told to get tested and isolate inside with their doors shut until they get a negative result.

NSW Health said a COVID-19 testing clinic set up onsite had so far tested 300 residents, with 12 positive cases.

The rest will be tested in the coming days.

Confirmed cases and close contacts have been given the option of staying in special health accommodation if they can’t isolate safely in their apartment.

End of curfew welcomed but more needs to be done

From last night, residents in the 12 local government areas of concern in south-west and Western Sydney were able to leave their homes for non-essential reasons between 9:00pm and 5:00am.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian lifted the curfew yesterday after the state hit the “incredible milestone” of having 80 per cent of the eligible adult population vaccinated with one dose.

Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown said the decision was heartening but said more needed to be done, especially around how and when suburbs were identified as areas of concern.

“There’s several suburbs now showing a significant reduction in COVID-19 numbers,” Ms McKeown said.

“The criteria for defining areas of concern needs to be revised, and suburbs with low case numbers or those with a significant decline in numbers need to be removed as an area of concern.”

The Premier, however, warned it was “too early and too risky” for a further easing of the stay-at-home orders. She urged residents in the hotspots, and across NSW, to “hold the line”.

“We have roughly 2.2 million people in those areas of concern. Even having 20 per cent of them not vaccinated is about 400,000 people,” she said.

“That’s a lot of people. The virus is still circulating in high numbers … We can all see the light at the end of the tunnel but we still have work to do and I ask everybody, especially in the local government areas of concern, to hold the line.”

Calls for NSW and Victoria to unite out of lockdown

The NSW and Victorian peak business bodies are calling for open travel once both states achieve 80 per cent vaccination coverage, and for the roadmaps out of lockdown to be aligned.

At 70 per cent, they want to see things freed up for border communities.

Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter estimates the lockdowns have cost the economies a combined $2.5 billion a week, with many businesses now on the brink of collapse.

He said NSW and Victoria were on a similar level with COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates, and it was time for some “unity” and “clarity”.

“We would like to see people be able to make their travel plans now for Christmas, be able to see friends and family and book those holidays in regional areas around the borders that rely on tourism,” he said.

“We’re 60 per cent of the Australian economy between us, and it’s time to unite.”

He also said the popular Sydney to Melbourne airline route should open on a specific date, given the states knew when they would hit 80 per cent.

NSW released its “living with COVID” plan last week, Victoria’s roadmap is expected in coming days.

Treeloppers fined for breach

A group of Western Sydney treeloppers who were infectious with COVID-19 while door-knocking in the Hunter have been fined a total of $7,000.

Five men aged 17 to 59 from the company Sau Tree Services breached public health orders.

Police said they first encountered the men in Toronto on July 20, but they claimed to have travelled to the area before the lockdown started.

Some of the men were struck down with COVID-19 at the end of August, sparking an outbreak scare and further inquiries by police.

A sixth man from the company was fined $200 for not wearing a mask.

The owner of the tree lopping business has previously issued a teary apology to the people of Newcastle.

Cash, drugs seized in million-dollar sting

Police have arrested five people and seized more than $1 million in drugs across Sydney and Lake Illawarra.

The investigation, which started in May last year, culminated in eight arrests and warrants executed in Brighton Le Sands, Arncliffe, Banksia, Rockdale, Potts Hill, and Chipping Norton on Monday and Wednesday.

Five people were arrested during the raids, and police will allege more than 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, 340g of cocaine, heroin, and two guns were also found, along with $100,000 in cash.

Earlier in the year, a Toyota Hilux was stopped in Heathcote allegedly carrying $60,000 in cash, half a kilogram of methamphetamine, and 40g of heroin, leading to a further three arrests.

All those arrested are expected to appear in court today and tomorrow.

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