Sydney, Jan 4 (IANS) For the first time since December 15, 2020, Sydney did not report a single new coronavirus case on Monday despite fears of a developing infection cluster in the western suburbs of Australia's biggest city.
Health officials in New South Wales (NSW) state, of which Sydney is the capital, noted that overnight two cases were linked to the cluster detected at a liquor store in the suburb of Berala, Xinhua news agency reported.
But since it was recorded outside the official reporting period on Monday, the cases will be included in Tuesday's tally.
Anyone who visited the liquor store or a nearby supermarket during several periods between December 22 and December 31, 2020, were considered close contacts and told to get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless if they received a negative result.
"That is a long time since that period, but what we want to do is pick up any people that may have been transmitted to then, to assist us in blocking any further chains of transmission," NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.
Being the peak festive season in Australia, thousands of people were expected to self-isolate, in addition to thousands more already considered close contacts since the most recent outbreak began.
Health officials said that testing rates had dropped to an insufficient level below 30,000 per day and urged anyone with even mild symptoms to get tested.
"We are particularly urging residents of western, southwestern Sydney and Wollongong to come forward with even the mildest of symptoms," Chant said.
"We need to see those testing levels sustained and that's because people were at those exposure venues for a number of days."
Starting Monday, wearing of face masks became mandatory for all residents of Sydney in public indoor spaces and on public transport for the first time since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile the state of Victoria recorded three locally acquired cases, linked to a cluster which was said to have originated in Sydney.
The state of NSW currently accounts for 4,965 coronavirus cases and 54 deaths.
Australia has so far reported a total 28,483 cases and 909 fatalities.