NSW social distancing stays until vaccine

NSW will step up coronavirus testing in areas where there have been cases of local transmission.
NSW will step up coronavirus testing in areas where there have been cases of local transmission.

Social distancing rules will be a "way of life" until a coronavirus vaccine is found even though the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to stabilise in NSW.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says social distancing rules to limit the spread of the virus will stay in place even when other restrictions are lifted.

"No matter what restrictions there are in the future, no matter what restrictions are potentially eased in the future, until a vaccine is found, social distancing is a way of life now," she told reporters on Tuesday.

NSW recorded another 49 cases on Tuesday - down from the 57 announced on Monday - bringing the total confirmed cases to 2686.

"The number of new cases in NSW continues to stabilise and even decline," Ms Berejiklian said.

"However, we are still increasingly concerned about the community-to-community transmission ... people who are getting the virus from a source that is not known to us."

NSW Health says there are 406 locally-acquired cases with an unknown source.

The latest deaths include a 90-year-old man who was a resident of the Opal Care Bankstown aged care facility and an 87-year-old woman who was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

Of the 21 NSW deaths recorded so far, five are linked to the Ruby Princess, six were residents at Dorothy Henderson Lodge and two were residents at Opal Care Bankstown.

The Ruby Princess remains docked in Port Kembla, near Wollongong, where it's expected to remain for 10 days while 1040 crew members undergo medical assessments.

About 200 crew have symptoms of coronavirus.

Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram said officials are hoping to have the ship docked for 10 days to allow the sick crew members to recover before the ship departs Australian waters - with crew members onboard.

The vessel is linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths across Australia.

The NSW Police homicide squad is investigating why passengers were allowed to disembark from the ship in Sydney on March 19 despite concerns some might have contracted the illness.

Opposition leader Jodi McKay says the Ruby Princess scandal needs to be picked apart in an inquiry with the powers of a royal commission.

The premier on Tuesday announced $100 million to support frontline healthcare workers through free accommodation and parking, as well as supporting medical research and vaccine trials.

Testing for COVID-19 has been extended in areas where authorities have seen evidence of local transmission, including in Broken Hill, Lake Macquarie, Nowra, South Nowra and Port Macquarie, and the Sydney suburbs of Waverley, Woollahra, Ryde, Dee Why and Manly.

A drive-through testing site run by St Vincent's Hospital has been set up in Bondi after clusters developed within Sydney's backpacker community.

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says the first 288 Australians quarantined in a Sydney CBD hotel will be able to leave on Wednesday - including residents of other states who would be transported to the airport.

"They'll be getting a letter from me confirming their period of isolation and I certainly hope when they land back in their states and territories they are allowed to go home," Mr Fuller told reporters on Tuesday.

All travellers will undergo a final health check before they leave the hotel.

"After that, we'll be planning for the coming Sunday, Monday, Tuesday where some 3000 Australian residents will come out of hotel isolation," Mr Fuller said.

Meanwhile, NSW police are continuing to enforce self-isolation regulations, with 122 fines and 10 court attendance notices issued across the state since March 17.

Australian Associated Press