Newcastle Argyle House nightclub COVID outbreak could become one of the ‘highest transmission events’ in the world
A Hunter public health controller is predicting a 1970s-themed prom night at a Newcastle nightclub could become one of the highest COVID-19 transmission events in the world.
COVID cases soar in nightclub cluster, with more than 200 recorded in the health district today
Health officials say it could become one of the biggest super spreader events in the world
Many of the cases are likely to be the new Omicron variant
More than 100 new cases were recorded across Newcastle today, as numbers in the city rapidly rise after the event at Argyle House last Wednesday.
Health officials said of the 650 people checked into the event, 150 people have so far tested positive to COVID-19, most likely with the new Omicron variant.
In the 24-hours to 8pm last night, the Hunter New England health district recorded 224 new cases of coronavirus.
Of the new cases, 216 are from the Hunter alone with 116 from Newcastle, 48 from Lake Macquarie, 28 from Maitland, 11 from Port Stephens, seven from Cessnock, five from Singleton and one from Dungog.
Dr David Durrheim said the numbers are only set to increase.
Dr Durrheim said it’s a real concern Omicron is in the local community.
“This particular strain is highly infectious, it spreads quickly and it obviously spreads effectively in these crowded indoor environments, particularly if there’s loud music and people are unmasked,” he said.
“We obviously reviewed CCTV footage, there was almost no mask wearing and clearly people were huddled together very, very close,” he said.
Health alerts have also been issued for Finnegan’s Hotel and the Newcastle Exhibition and Convention Centre (NEX) for last Friday night.
Testing services expanded, mask wearing urged
With hundreds of people identified as close contacts, testing clinics across the region have experienced increased demand, which has caused traffic chaos and long wait times.
As a result, operating hours of some testing clinics have been extended.
The drive-though clinic at Wickham will be open from 8:00am to 8:00pm Monday to Sunday this week, while the drive-through clinic at Adamstown will now be open from 7:30am to 6:00pm.
Restrictions in NSW will ease tomorrow, with unvaccinated people able to attended pubs and clubs and other indoor venues like retail stores and cafes.
Masks will only be required on public transport and planes and for indoor front-of-house hospitality staff who are not fully vaccinated.
But Dr Durrheim said wearing a mask is still a good idea.
“Doesn’t matter whether you’re expected to or if it’s mandated but if you’re anywhere in a crowd, I will certainly be wearing a mask for the next while,” he said.