Police placed an armed guard outside a backpacker hostel in Byron Bay to lock down 81 guests and staff after an unvaccinated employee tested positive for Covid.
It is believed the woman may have infected all of the rooms at the Aquarius Inn on the NSW north coast before the alarm went off.
Now police have cordoned off the building with no one allowed out after all guests and staff were deemed close contacts by NSW Health, worsening the crisis.
Everyone in the hostel could now face at least 14 days of isolation there if they have not been vaccinated, and will be tested repeatedly throughout the lockdown.
Police mounted an armed guard at a backpacker hostel in Byron Bay (pictured) to lock down 81 guests after an employee tested positive for Covid
Police cordoned off the building with no one allowed in or out while testing continues (pictured. A guest on the grounds of the property)
Even double-hit guests and staff will have to stay at the hostel for the next seven days without leaving while they are monitored and tested, before they can walk free if they test negative on day six.
The unvaccinated employee who triggered the alert is said to have come to Byron from Victoria to work at the hostel.
A North Queensland guest told the ABC: ‘She’s probably been in every room, so yeah…’
“I don’t want it, it’s scary enough, serious enough,” a Melbourne man shouted from his balcony at the hostel.
Double-hit customers and staff will be required 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 lockdown conditions (pictured)
The lockdown comes as thousands of school leavers in celebration are due to arrive in Byron Bay and other parts of northern New South Wales over the next month from this weekend.
Guests received pizzas for dinner from local Dominos on Wednesday night before a truck delivered breakfast boxes – including apple juice, cornflakes, milk, fruit cups and water – for trapped guests Thursday morning.
NSW Health confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that the lockdown was initially for 48 hours but has since been upgraded after inquiries revealed the possible severity of the infection.
“NNSWLHD is working with other agencies, such as the NSW Police, to support guests and staff with food and other essentials,” said Wayne Jones, chief executive of the North NSW Local Health District. .
More than 80 backpackers at a hostel in Byron Bay on the NSW north coast have been placed in a week-long lockdown after a guest tested positive for Covid-19
NSW Health has locked Aquarius Backpackers (pictured) in Byron Bay for up to 14 days, affecting 81 guests
Police will continue to maintain custody of the property for as long as they deem necessary, NSW Health said.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith posted on Facebook on Wednesday evening about the Aquarius Backpackers situation.
“I am closely monitoring a situation in Byron Bay tonight where one positive case of Covid-19 and 84 close contacts have been identified at Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay,” she said.
“I am told (they are) backed up with food, health and support,” Ms Smith said.
Guests received pizza for dinner from local Dominos on Wednesday night (pictured by a 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 this situation as it will be a difficult time,” Ms Smith said.
Thousands of HSC students are set to descend on the resort for the schoolboy celebrations.
Some 80.9% of people in the local government area of Byron Bay are fully immunized. Although high, the coverage rate is below the state average of 92%.
Officers are due to hold a press conference Thursday on the launch of the force’s Operation Schoolies in the Tweed/Byron Police District.
Police announced they would carry out a high-visibility operation for the duration of the school term, 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 not vaccinated
NSW Police have placed a 24 hour guard on the hostel to ensure compliance (pictured)
Thousands of HSC students are set to descend on the resort town for schoolboy celebrations (pictured, leavers celebrate in Queensland)
A total of 84 guests and staff at the Aquarius Backpackers hostel in Byron Bay have been taken into custody after coming into close contact with a positive Covid case
Meanwhile, unvaccinated Grade 12 students have been granted an exemption to attend Grade 12 ceremonies, dinners or graduations.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the 2021 cohort “had an incredibly difficult 18 months”.
“They deserve to be able to party with their friends and enjoy one of the biggest celebrations of their lives,” he said Thursday.
Police say they will be carrying out a high visibility operation for the duration of the school term (pictured, Aquarius Backpacker Hostel)
The local health district of northern New South Wales confirmed that two new cases of the virus were reported in the region on Wednesday (photo test clinic in Byron Bay)
The exemption means that Year 12 students who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to celebrate with their friends if they follow the public health requirements of the place they attend.
Meanwhile, the NSW government’s Covid-19 cabinet sub-committee will meet on Thursday to consider whether a mask mandate will be extended beyond December 15.
The government’s roadmap to exiting lockdown says restrictions will be eased when NSW reaches 95% double vaccination or on December 15 – whichever comes first.
This is when the lockdown for unvaccinated people will end and masks will only be needed on public transport, planes and airports and for indoor reception staff.
However, there are reports that NSW Health bureaucrats are pushing for masks to be compulsory in stores throughout the festive season.