Asia Minute: Sydney’s Uncertain Christmas

Dec 22, 2020

The combination of COVID-19 and the Christmas holidays is turning out to be a difficult one across the country and around the world. That's true this week in Australia's largest city, where one area has seen a recent spike in cases.


The Northern Beaches area of Sydney is in lockdown — at least through tomorrow. That’s after a cluster of COVID-19 cases swelled to more than 80.

Health officials call it the “Avalon cluster” — focused in a spot about 25 miles from Sydney’s central business district.

Despite that distance, the virus outbreak is having an impact across the city, where the size of gatherings has been temporarily cut.

Other parts of the country are also affected.

This past Sunday, three more Australian states joined a growing number who are banning residents of Sydney from entering. While their own residents who were in Sydney were given 12 hours to come home or face a 14-day quarantine once they returned.   

As for those in the Northern Beaches area, the only legal reason to go outside one’s home is for food shopping, medical reasons, travel for work or education or limited exercise.

Australia has been relatively successful in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, and one of the reasons is the speed and extent of the official response — from targeted lockdowns to aggressive contact tracing.

The big question for many at this point: “What about Christmas?”

The premier of New South Wales says she’ll follow the advice of health authorities — who will have an updated outlook on Wednesday.