A police investigation into the limousine driver who sparked Sydney’s current Covid outbreak has expanded to include the company that employed him to drive international aircrews to and from Sydney airport.
Questions are also being asked about whether a loophole in public health orders in New South Wales meant the driver was not required to wear a mask while working.
As the state’s coronavirus outbreak grew to 48 cases on Thursday, the NSW deputy police commissioner, Gary Worboys, told reporters that an investigation into the coronavirus outbreak was not contained to the man in his 60s, whose positive result on 16 June started the cluster.
“That investigation continues, as we think more about the offences that may have been committed,” Worboys said.
“It’s not just about a breach of that transport order … not just the driver but [also] the organisation that employs the driver. It is not as simple as just issuing a ticket to this gentleman [and] thinking that the whole system is repaired [or that] one person is responsible for where we are at today.”
Authorities believe the Bondi man caught the virus from a US aircrew sometime in the fortnight before 11 June.
He was employed driving international aircrews to and from Sydney airport, and health officials believe he may have caught the virus from three crew members of a FedEx freight plane.
It is not the first time a case has emerged from the quarantine transport system.
A 45-year-old driver caught the virus in December while transporting a family returning from overseas to a quarantine hotel. The Guardian has also reported cases in which people returning from overseas were transported by drivers who were not wearing masks.
While rules for transport crews were beefed up earlier this month to require drivers to undergo daily testing for Covid-19, NSW’s public health orders don’t include mask mandates, nor do they say drivers must be vaccinated.
On Monday the state’s health minister, Brad Hazzard, said he had instructed the health department to draw up new orders which would cover those gaps.
“They were explaining to me again that there are some challenges in that regard, but I said to them I’m not prepared to put up with the challenges,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB. “I just want it done.”
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said on Thursday she was frustrated by the outbreak, which she said was “perhaps the scariest period that NSW is going through” since the pandemic began.
She appeared to acknowledge a shortfall in the quarantine transport system, and said she was “as upset and frustrated as anybody” by the breach.
“We also rely on tens of thousands of outstanding people every day to do jobs that we would not do, to be in contact with people with the virus. So I want to continue to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all those people who put themselves on the line every day,” Berejiklian said.
“But I also want to say to those people in and around the system who think complacency is OK – it’s not OK.”