While the group is suspected of having originated from a traveler returning from abroad who arrived in Australia on December 1, identifying the exact source could prove to be an impossible task, NSW Health Director the Dr. Kerry Chant.
The pool of COVID-19 cases linked to the affluent Northern Beaches suburb of Avalon has now grown to 68.
There were 30 new cases of COVID-19 cases acquired locally in NSW overnight, with 28 so far linked to the group, said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Dr. Chant said NSW Health was testing all foreign travelers and comparing the results with international databases in an attempt to trace the original source of the outbreak.
“But you can imagine that in some countries like the United States, gene sequencing is not their priority given the number of cases they have,” said Dr. Chant.
“While I really want to find the source, this may be a challenge beyond us.
“But we are doing everything we can.
“We have to keep an open mind, because there may still be an unknown source.”
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the alleged foreign traveler who arrived in Australia on December 1 carried a similar strain of the virus that genomic sequencing also showed in Avalon COVID-19 cases.
But no connection had yet been made between that traveler and the Avalon cases, he said.
“The only missing link here at the moment is who was the original source of that virus abroad,” he said.
“We know that genomic sequencing has indicated that that person had a genomic sequence very close to the cases that were happening in Avalon. But we don’t know how we got there, that’s the problem.”
Chant said there are about 10 or 20 lines of investigation on the source, including cleanliness tests that may have worked inside the traveler’s room.
“There is no one who wants to get to the bottom of this more than me, because if I understand the clear chains of transmission, then I can better inform the government about the risk,” he said.
“The problem we have right now is that I don’t know how we got there, so I don’t know the person or where that person has been.
“This is why while we have a strong focus on northern beaches, it is essential that we take this seriously across the state of New South Wales.”