There are fears of a potentially massive Covid-19 spreading event after an entire shopping centre visited by “thousands” each day in southwest Sydney was exposed for 11 whole days.
It has worried officials so much they warn “many, many people in the community have been exposed” due to the fact “it is a very popular shopping centre” and worry the virus could have spread further.
NSW Health pinpointed the key venue of concern late on Monday night, warning any one who visited the Campsie Centre Shopping Mall from Wednesday, 14 July to Saturday 24 July (inclusive), is considered a close contact and must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result.
NSW Health has confirmed “onwards transmission” had already began taking place.
A number of other sites in Campsie have been identified as close contact venues at the same time reports indicted Greater Sydney was set for another four weeks in lockdown in its battle to contain the Delta spread which hit its highest number on Tuesday with a total of 172 new cases.
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Workers at the centre, located in the Canterbury-Bankstown local government area (LGA), have also been forced into isolation as the community braces for the worst.
“With Campsie, it is a community where we had a lot of cases and sometimes it is difficult to tease out what the source of the infection was versus where people are travelling when they are infectious,” NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty said today.
“Over time it was clear that a number of cases had visited the shopping centre there and there was transmission identified in a number of shops in Campsie.”
Khal Asfour, mayor of the City of Canterbury Bankstown, where the centre is located, told the ABC it’s the largest shopping complex in Campsie, located 11 kilometres south west of the Sydney CBD. The area has an approximate population of 24,500.
He warned thousands of residents visited the centre “every day … buying what they need to get by and survive, so it’s really concerning that we have so many people for such a long period of time that would have visited the centre that now need to isolate and get tested,” he said.
Mr Asfour revealed “a lot” of residents in the area work across the city because they are essential workers, including labourers, retail supermarkets and transport.
“Unfortunately, the risk is they’re catching the virus and bringing it in to Canterbury Bankstown and into their homes.”
Mr Asfour said surveillance testing needs to be “increased” and expressed concern that health officials are not ready “for potential increases we are going to get”.
Health and aged care workers who live in the Canterbury Bankstown LGA have to undergo surveillance testing every 72 hours, in line with rules already in place in Fairfield.
He said he felt “gutted” at the length of time of the centre was exposed and said it is “really going to hurt our community” as it awaits a potentially disastrous outcome.
He urged residents to listen to health advice, stay home and get tested.
“We need to make sure that people who work there, who have visited there are going to self isolate and get tested, because this virus is going to keep hurting us unless they do the right thing.
Canterbury Bankstown is already among one of five suburbs under tighter rules, where residents cannot leave the local government area that you live in for work unless you are an authorised worker.
People living in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA can only work in health or aged care outside of the area if they have been tested for COVID-19 in the previous 72 hours.
These workers include all those who work in aged care facilities and those who provide health services or ancillary or support services, including cleaners, cooks, and security providers.
The concern echoes those of Westfield Bondi Junction, in Sydney’s east, which last month saw thousands of shoppers who visited over the space of a week forced to get tested.
The centre was a cause for concern after a limousine driver in his 60s from who transported international flight crew attended the site before returning a positive result on June 16.
Anyone who visited the centre, including the carparks, at any time between June 12 and 18 were asked to come forward.
“It could involve thousands of extra people getting tested now,” Ms Berejiklian said at the time
“We have the capacity for that to happen, and we urge people to come forward. The high number of tests we have, the better number it will be to make sure we haven’t missed any strains of community transmission.”