The New South Wales government was reportedly warned about the dangers of taxi drivers transporting flight crew from Sydney Airport four months ago but did not tighten health regulations.
According to The Australian, Transport for NSW raised concerns with the state Department of Health in February that taxi drivers could catch Covid-19 and quickly spread it around the city.
Under a state public health order, international arrivals are not allowed to take ride share vehicles, public transport or taxis – but the order does not apply to flight crew.
This is the limo driver who caught the virus from international air crew and spread it around Sydney without realising
A New South Wales Transport Workers Union official raised the issue with NSW Health but was told ‘the airlines are in charge’, a source told The Australian.
The rules state that airlines must organise ‘appropriate transportation’ to take foreign crew to government quarantine and crew who live locally to their homes.
Sydney’s latest outbreak, which has caused 42 infections and led to mandated mask-wearing, was sparked by a limo driver who was unvaccinated and not wearing an N95 mask when he collected flight crew.
The driver, who is in his 60s, said he was scared of blood clots, an extremely rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is only recommended in Australia for people over the age of 60.
He told A Current Affair that he had a family history of blood clots and was not an anti-vaxxer.
It is not clear why he was not encouraged to get the Pfizer vaccine instead because of his front-line role.
Reporter Lauren Golman, who interviewed him, said: ‘He has not received any kind of pressure or encouragement to have the vaccine. I’m not sure if he has had conversations with his employer.’
Jon Bailey’s hair salon in Double Bay is deep cleaned on Thursday due to the outbreak
On Thursday, Ms Berejiklian dodged questions about why the driver was unvaccinated, saying: ‘Obviously we will have more to say about that once police have completed their investigations.
‘Everybody in New South Wales who works in our systems know their obligations, and we certainly look forward to providing certainty around what occurred in this situation.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said vaccines were available and said it was the state government’s responsibility to require them.
‘The doses were available and on this case that worker was not vaccinated and the NSW Premier has made it very clear that they’re investigating into how that occurred,’ he said in Parliament on Thursday.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said police believe they cannot take any action against the man because there was no requirement for him to be vaccinated.
But he told 2GB radio host Ben Fordham that officers are seeking ‘legal advice’ to see if there is any way to punish him.
‘We have sent the case for urgent outside legal advice and have done that due to the significance of this outbreak and the community concern.
‘We need to tick every box in terms of making sure whether he has or hasn’t definitively breached the Public Health Orders,’ he said.
It comes as thousands more Sydneysiders risk being plunged into isolation after patients visited dozens of busy venues spanning 17 suburbs, from the east to the North Shore and a busy shopping centre in the city’s west.
Limo driver in his 60s reveals why he was not vaccinated
‘He is very scared and concerned,’ revealed A Current Affair reporter, Lauren Golman, who interviewed the driver on Thursday night.
‘He’s been receiving a lot of criticism and he is worried about his safety and his family safety.’
The unnamed driver is in isolation as he fights his Covid infection and was too ill and too scared of the public backlash to show his face onscreen to defend himself.
But Golman told host Tracy Grimshaw he admitted he had avoided getting the AstraZeneca vaccination for fear of the possible side effects.
‘He is over the age of 60 which means he is eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine,’ Golman said.
‘He tells me he has a family history of blood clots and he didn’t feel comfortable getting the vaccine.
‘He says he has been working with his doctor, they talk regularly, they tried to come up with a plan but at this stage he is too afraid to have the AstraZeneca vaccine.’
Although the driver was in an apparently high-risk occupation on the frontline with international workers, vaccination was not mandatory, but strongly recommended.
There was no explanation why he hadn’t been vaccinated with the Pfizer jab instead, but Golman stressed the driver was not an anti-vaxxer.
Golman added: ‘He has not received any kind of pressure or encouragement to have the vaccine. I’m not sure if he has had conversations with his employer.’
In a late night drop of new exposure sites on Thursday, NSW Health put alerts out for a host of new venues including a Kmart, Domino’s Pizza and several popular coffee shops.
Another shock came as coronavirus fragments were found in a Bourke sewage treatment plant, 750km away from Sydney in the far north-west of NSW, where there has never been a single known case.
The wastewater finding indicates the virus may have already escaped the NSW capital and has somehow reached vulnerable outback areas.
Meanwhile, in scenes reminiscent of the first wave of Covid in March 2020, Coles and Woolworths’ shelves across Sydney have once again been stripped bare of loo roll.
Neither of the supermarkets have re-introduced buying limits on toilet paper, but frustrated shoppers have called out others for stockpiling.
A total of 181 exposure sites have been announced in Greater Sydney since the latest outbreak began, bringing in a raft of new restrictions (pictured, commuters in masks on Thursday)
This terrifying map shows the 17 suburbs announced as having Covid exposure sites in a worrying late night drop on Thursday
Officials announced 11 new cases of the highly-infectious Indian Delta strain on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections linked to the Bondi cluster up to 36 – with several more lingering mystery cases.
Since the outbreak began last week, 181 exposure sites have been added to the burgeoning list – 33 of which were added on Thursday night alone in suburbs sprawling right across Australia’s largest city.
Covid-infected residents have been on 23 public transport routes, and anyone who visited one of 53 venues across Sydney over the past few days has been told to get a test and isolate immediately, regardless of the result.
In the surprise late night announcement just after 11pm, authorities demanded anyone who has visited a series of cafes, restaurants and gyms across Bondi, Potts Point, Darlinghurst and Alexandria contact NSW Health immediately, get tested and isolate for 14 days even if the test is negative.
Anyone who dined at Coffee, Tea & Me in Potts Point or who visited the pool or the change rooms at the Elixr Health Club in Bondi Junction on Sunday has been told to do the same.
Likewise, diners in the inner west who went to Cantine Verte Café or The Pommery Cafe in Alexandra on Monday has been given the same advice.
In Bondi, people who went to Elixr Health Club but did not go to the change rooms or the pool have been told to isolate until a negative test is returned.
Anyone who visited in Westfield Paramatta (pictured) on Wednesday has been told to isolate until they test negative after the shop was visited by an infected person
Commuters are seen wearing face masks as they arrive at Circular Quay by ferry on Thursday, as the number of Covid cases grew by 11 in Sydney
SUBURBS ON ALERT:
The same advice goes for anyone who went to Harry’s Bondi, Bondi Relish, La Piadina, Lyfe Cafe, Royal Hotel, Fitness First Platinum or Fitness First on Spring Street in the beachside suburb on Sunday or Monday.
In the west, anyone who went to Amart Furniture in Bankstown on Sunday, Domino’s Pizza or Big Bun in Merrylands on Monday, or Kmart in Westfield Paramatta on Wednesday has been told to isolate until they test negative.
Further south, shoppers who went to Crossroads Homemaker Centre in Casula on Sunday has been told to stay at home for 14 days until they get a negative test, or if they went to Gregory Hills Town Centre, in the city’s south-west.
An exposure site was also added in North Sydney, with anyone who visited Priceline Pharmacy on Walker Street on Monday told to isolate until testing negative.
Famed Sydney salon boss Joh Bailey warned more than 1,000 customers and staff at his flagship outlet in Double Bay have been exposed to coronavirus by an infected hairdresser.
It was initially revealed that the hairdresser, who lives in western Sydney, worked three consecutive nine-hour shifts at the salon from Thursday June 17 to Saturday June 19.
But in a another worrying development on Thursday night, NSW Health announced that the salon had been exposed to coronavirus for nine full days – from the moment it opened to the second it closed – between June 15 and June 23.
Skin Medi Spa and Wellness, in the same complex is under a similar order with anyone who visited from Wednesday June 16 to 23 Wednesday – at all times – urged to isolate and get tested immediately.
Famed Sydney salon boss Joh Bailey warned more than 1,000 customers and staff at his flagship outlet in Double Bay have been exposed to coronavirus by an infected hairdresser (pictured, former WAG Phoebe Burgess at the salon earlier this week)
In the west, anyone who went to Amart Furniture in Bankstown on Sunday, Domino’s Pizza (pictured) or Big Bun in Merrylands on Monday has also been told to get tested
HUGE COVID EXPOSURE LIST REVEALED THURSDAY NIGHT
NSW Health says anyone who attended the following venues at the times listed is a close contact and must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result, and call 1800 943 553
Potts Point: Coffee, Tea & Me (dine in customers ) – Sunday June 20, 9.50am – 10.10am
Bondi Junction: Elixr Health Club (patrons in the swimming area, poolside showers and poolside change rooms) – Sunday June 20, 2.45pm – 3.45pm
Alexandria: Cantine Verte Café – Monday June 21, 9.20am – 9.35am and Tuesday June 22, 8am – 8.15am
Alexandria: The Pommery Café – Monday June 21, 2.30pm – 3pm
Double Bay: Joh Bailey hairdresser – Tuesday June 15 to June 16, any time
Double Bay: SKIIN Medi Spa & Wellness – Wednesday June 16 to 23, any time
Bondi: Lyfe Cafe – Wednesday June 16, 12.30pm – 2.25pm
Bondi: Royal Hotel – Monday June 21, 9.45am – 11.45am
Double Bay: Michel’s Charcuterie – Tuesday June 22, 1.30pm – 2pm
Bondi Junction: Fitness First on Spring Street – Tuesday June 22, 5.45pm – 6.45pm
Darlinghurst: Frankie’s Beans shop – Monday June 21, 10am – 11am and 1pm – 2pm
Darlinghurst: Vinfafe Cafe – Tuesday June 22, 3.05pm – 3.45pm
Anyone who attended any of the following venues at the times listed is a casual contact and must immediately get tested and self-isolate until a negative result is received
Potts Point: Coffee, Tea & Me (takeaway customers ) – Sunday June 20, 9.50am – 10.10am
Casula: Crossroads Homemaker Centre – Sunday June 20, 1.30pm – 2.30pm
Bankstown: Amart Furniture – Sunday June 20, 2.30pm – 3.05pm
Gregory Hills: Gregory Hills town centre – Sunday June 20, 3.30pm – 4.35pm
Bondi Junction: Elixr Health Club – Sunday 20 June 20, 2.45pm – 3.45pm
Double Bay: Michael’s Charcuterie – Monday June 21, 11am – 1pm
Randwick: Mr Vitamins – Monday June 21, 2.20pm – 2.50pm
Bondi: Totti’s Restaurant – Sunday June 20, 7.50pm – 9.30pm
Bondi Beach: Harry’s Bondi – Monday June 21, 1.50pm – 2.20pm
Bondi Beach: Bondi Relish – Monday June 21, 2.35pm – 3.05pm
Bondi Beach: La Piadina – Monday June 21, 2.40pm – 3.10pm
Vaucluse: Wings Dragon – Monday June 21, 3.10pm – 3.40pm
Alexandria: Industrial complex at 32 Ralph Street – Monday 21 June, 8.30am – 5.30pm and Tuesday June 22, 8am – 12.45pm
North Sydney: Priceline Pharmacy, Monday June 21, 4.50pm – 5.15pm
Merrylands: Domino’s Pizza – Monday June 21, 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Merrylands: Big Bun – Monday June 21, 6.50pm – 7.10pm
East Sydney: Woolworths – Tuesday June 22, 8am – 12.45pm
Kensington: 7-Eleven – Tuesday June 22, 12.40pm – 1.20pm
Parramatta: Kmart Westfield Parramatta Shopping Centre – Wednesday June 23, 11.50am – 12.10pm
Rouse Hill: TerryWhite Chemmart – Monday June 21, 11.05am – 11.15am