Police have placed an armed guard outside a backpackers’ hostel in Byron Bay to lock down 81 guests and staff after an unvaccinated employee tested positive to Covid.
The woman is believed to have possibly infected every room in the Aquarius hostel on the NSW north coast before the alarm was raised.
Now police have sealed off the building with no-one allowed out after all guests and staff were deemed close contacts by NSW Health which has escalated the crisis.
Everyone in the hostel could now face at least 14 days in isolation there if they have not been vaccinated, and will be repeatedly tested throughout the lockdown.
Police have mounted an armed guard on a backpackers’ hostel in Byron Bay (pictured) to lock down 81 guests after an employee tested positive to Covid
Police have sealed off the building with no-one allowed in or out as testing continues (pictured. a guest on the grounds of the property)
Even double-jabbed guests and staff will need to stay at the hostel for the next seven days without leaving while they are monitored and tested, before being able to walk free if they test negative on day six.
The unvaccinated employee who sparked the alert is believed to have come to Byron from Victoria to work at the hostel.
One guest from North Queensland told the ABC: ‘She has probably been in every room, so, yeah…’
‘I don’t want it, it’s pretty scary, pretty serious,’ one Melbourne man shouted from his balcony at the hostel.
Double-jabbed guests and staff will need to stay at the hostel (pictured) for the next seven days without leaving while they are monitored and tested
Staff continue to work at the hostel under the lockdown conditions (pictured)
The lockdown comes as thousands of celebrating school leavers are due to arrive in Byron Bay and other parts of northern NSW over the next month from this weekend.
Guests were delivered pizza for dinner from the local Dominos on Wednesday night before a truck delivered breakfast boxes – including apple juice, corn flakes, milk, fruit cups and water – for the trapped guests on Thursday morning.
NSW Health confirmed to Daily Mail Australia the lockdown was initially for 48 hours but has since been upgraded after investigations revealed the possible serious extent of the infection.
‘NNSWLHD is working with other agencies, such as NSW Police, to support the guests and staff with food supplies and other essential items,’ Wayne Jones, Chief Executive Northern NSW Local Health District said.
More than 80 backpackers at a Byron Bay hostel on the NSW north coast have been placed into a week-long lockdown after a guest tested positive to Covid-19
NSW Health has locked down the Aquarius Backpackers (pictured) in Byron Bay for up to 14 days, impacting 81 guests
Police will continue to maintain the guard on the property for as long as they think it is necessary, said NSW Health.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith posted on Facebook on Wednesday night about the situation at the Aquarius Backpackers.
‘I’m closely monitoring a situation in Byron Bay this evening where a positive Covid-19 case and 84 close contacts have been identified at Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay,’ she said.
‘I’m told (they are) being supported with food, health and support,’ Ms Smith said.
Guests were delivered pizza for dinner from the local Dominos on Wednesday night (pictured one guest at the Byron Bay hostel)
NSW Police have placed a 24-hour guard on the hostel to ensure compliance.
‘My thoughts are with everyone in that situation as it will be a tough time,’ Ms Smith said.
Thousands of HSC students are about to descend on the resort town for schoolies celebrations.
Some 80.9 per cent of residents in the Byron Bay local government area are fully vaccinated. Although high, the coverage rate lags the state average of 92 per cent.
Officers are due to hold a press conference on Thursday about the launch of the force’s schoolies operation in the Tweed/Byron Police District.
Police say they will be conducting a high-visibility operation for the duration of the schoolies period, targeting drug and alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour.
Food deliveries have been allowed into the hostel (pictured) but none of the guests or staff will be allowed out for at least seven days or 14 if they are unvaccinated
NSW Police have placed a 24-hour guard on the hostel to ensure compliance (pictured)
Thousands of HSC students are about to descend on the resort town for schoolies celebrations (pictured, leavers celebrating in Queensland)
A total of 84 guests and staff at the Aquarius Backpackers hostel in Byron Bay have been sent into lockdown after coming into close contact with a positive Covid case
Meanwhile, unvaccinated year 12 students have been granted an exemption to attend school year 12 formals, dinners, or graduations.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the 2021 cohort ‘had an incredibly tough 18 months’.
‘They deserve to be able to party with their friends and enjoy one of the biggest celebrations of their life,’ he said on Thursday.
Police say they will be conducting a high-visibility operation for the duration of the schoolies period (pictured, the Aquarius Backpacker hostel)
The northern NSW local health district confirmed there had been two new cases of the virus reported in the area on Wednesday (pictured testing clinic in Byron Bay)
The exemption means year 12 students who have not been vaccinated for Covid-19 will be able to celebrate with their friends if they abide by the public health requirements of the venue they’re attending.
Meanwhile, the NSW government’s Covid-19 cabinet sub-committee will meet on Thursday to consider if a mask mandate will be extended beyond December 15.
The government’s roadmap out of lockdown says restrictions will ease when NSW reaches 95 per cent double vaccination or on December 15 – whichever comes first.
That’s when the lockout of unvaccinated people will end and masks will only be required on public transport, planes and airports and for indoor front-of-house hospitality staff.
However, there are reports NSW Health bureaucrats are pushing to keep masks mandatory in shops during the entire festive season.