NSW won’t make masks compulsory yet

The NSW government won’t mandate the wearing of masks in public despite the growing COVID-19 case load, with the premier noting indoor hospitality venues pose the biggest risk for potential outbreaks.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wouldn’t yet follow Victoria’s lead by enforcing mask use in public but urged that people wear masks where social distancing was impossible.

She said social distancing remained more important, while NSW Health on Tuesday said it encouraged residents to avoid non-essential travel.

“What NSW Health and myself are worried about most at this moment in time is what people are doing when they’re entering hospitality venues … you can’t wear a mask when you’re having a meal,” Ms Berejiklian told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

“That’s where the biggest risk is at the moment, indoor events.

“The health advice to date has served NSW extremely well and it’s not for politicians to make this stuff up as we go.”

The NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union called on the Berejiklian government to provide all public transport workers with masks if they requested it and encourage mask-wearing on public transport.

“At a very minimum, workers should be provided with masks if they request this protection and everyone should be urged to wear mask at points of congestion on the bus network where physical distancing can’t be maintained,” tram and bus division secretary David Babineau said in a statement on Tuesday.

“While passenger limits are in place, the reality is bottlenecks occur and it’s patchy whether people adhere to them.”

NSW recorded 13 new COVID-19 cases from almost 16,000 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, including 10 people associated with an outbreak at the Thai Rock Restaurant in Stockland Mall at Wetherill Park.

Another two new cases were associated with the Crossroads Hotel cluster in Casula, which is now linked to 50 cases.

Ms Berejiklian said NSW had the chance to get ahead of the virus if residents socially distance over the next few weeks and warned hospitality venues faced major penalties if they failed to ensure social distancing.

“This can get away from us very quickly which is why I’d rather everyone do the right thing now while we can still be in a position to control the spread,” she said.

NSW will from Wednesday enforce tougher border restrictions for people wanting to enter the state from Victoria, with a border zone to be set up along the Murray River and outstanding travel permits to be cancelled.

The community has been urged to avoid travel where possible and to expect significant delays at border entry points.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller reiterated the state is at a critical stage of the pandemic and warned any behaviour that jeopardises the health and safety of the community would be condemned.

“In this current environment, I am reluctant to honour warnings for anyone who knowingly and deliberately breaches ministerial directions,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He also warned the public against attending a Black Lives Matter protest planned for Sydney on July 28.

There are 90 people being treated for the coronavirus in NSW, with two patients in intensive care – including a person in their 30s.

NSW Health on Monday afternoon also directed anyone who attended Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Harris Park between July 15 to 17 to self-isolate for 14 days and come forward for testing, after a visit by a confirmed case.

© AAP 2020