“The numbers are far too low... if we’re going to succeed in staying ahead of the COVID pandemic, testing is crucial in large numbers so we can be confident of the data when we’re making decisions,” NSW Acting Premier John Barilaro told reporters.
Authorities have imposed mandatory masks in indoor spaces and on public transport from Monday for Sydney’s five million residents or face a spot fine of A$200 ($154).
NSW officials had rejected calls for mandatory face masks since the pandemic started and the change of policy follows the latest Sydney outbreak, which seems to be highly infectious, and ahead of a cricket test between Australia and India in Sydney which is expected to attract 24,000 spectators.
Low single-digit cases from a cluster in northern seaside suburbs in recent days suggest a strict lockdown there since mid-December may have effectively eliminated the virus, but a KPMG report said the lockdown cost NSW economy A$3.20 billion ($2.46 billion) in December.
NSW and Sydney, Australia’s largest city, have been isolated from the rest of Australia by state border closures or 14 day mandatory quarantine rules for interstate arrivals from NSW.
Neighbouring Victoria state, which is also battling new cases in state capital Melbourne, on Monday reported three local cases bringing the active cases in the state to 36.
It has reported just under 28,500 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.