Tougher pub rules after NSW virus outbreak

A visitor to Sydney's Star Casino has tested positive to COVID-19.
A visitor to Sydney's Star Casino has tested positive to COVID-19.

Pubs will have to operate under stricter rules set to be introduced by the NSW government after more than 20 COVID-19 cases were linked to a Sydney pub outbreak.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Monday that 10 coronavirus cases were now directly linked to the Crossroads Hotel at Casula in southwest Sydney while 11 cases were indirectly connected.

NSW recorded 14 new cases as of 8pm on Sunday with four in hotel quarantine, two being NSW residents who caught the virus in Victoria, and eight being linked to the Crossroads Hotel outbreak.

Dr Chant later on Monday confirmed an additional eight cases had been reported up to midday - all linked to the Crossroads Hotel.

"You can see how rapidly COVID can spread if we do not act promptly," she told reporters in Sydney.

All patrons of the Casula pub, who entered from July 3 to 10, must self-isolate and are being urged to get tested as a precaution.

The NSW government will on Tuesday announce new COVID-19 rules for pubs, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday.

The measures are tipped to include stricter requirements for venues to take contact details of patrons in case there is an outbreak and tougher regulations on the cleaning of pubs.

In addition the report said no more than 300 people will be allowed in a pub no matter its size.

Currently, one customer per four square metres is allowed.

The changes - decided during a meeting of senior government ministers on Monday night - will not apply to clubs, restaurants, or The Star Casino, the SMH reported.

Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection at the Crossroads Hotel with further test results expected this week.

While Dr Chant said it was premature to confirm how the outbreak started, she noted it could have been introduced through a Victorian contact.

The pub had a COVID-19 safe plan and authorities were able to get contact details of some patrons but the "issue of implementation" is being investigated, Dr Chant added.

Police are working with Liquor and Gaming to investigate if the Crossroads Hotel breached any guidelines.

One of the eight latest cases, which is linked to the Casula pub, tested positive after visiting The Star casino in Sydney on July 4.

On Monday Liquor and Gaming NSW said the casino had been slapped with a $5000 fine for breaching COVID-19 health orders in allowing people to stand and mingle while drinking alcohol.

Dr Chant said other venues across Sydney may have been exposed to the virus between June 27 and July 10 after visits from people linked to the outbreak.

These include Picton Hotel, Planet Fitness gym in Casula, Canterbury Leagues Club, Narellan Town Centre and Zone Bowling in Villawood. People who visited between these dates have been urged to watch for symptoms and get tested.

Meanwhile, there are reports about 30 Villawood Immigration Detention Centre guards are self-isolating after attending a party at the Crossroads Hotel.

The Refugee Action Coalition raised concerns that refugees could have been exposed to COVID-19 after some guards went to work after the party.

"Staff employed at VIDC who have recently been to the Crossroads Hotel are following advice from NSW Health and all are currently self-quarantining," an Australian Border Force spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

Federal MP for Werriwa, Anne Stanley, said she had been tested and gone into self-isolation after dining at the Crossroads Hotel last week.

Victorian health authorities also on Monday confirmed two residents had tested positive in the southern state after recently travelling to Merimbula on the southern NSW coast.

The Victorians visited Murray Downs Golf Club, Cook at Kurnell, Highfield in Caringbah, Merimbula RSL and Merimbula's Waterfront Cafe between July 4 and 7 with patrons urged to get tested if symptoms arise.

Australian Associated Press