Sydney sets lockdown for beach suburbs

Sydney’s beaches -- usually packed with people in the lead up to Christmas -- are this year eerily deserted

On Saturday (December 19) a quarter of a million people in northern beach suburbs were ordered into a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve.

As officials try to contain a cluster of coronavirus cases across Australia's most populous city.

This is New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian:

"We're hoping that will give us sufficient time to get on top of the virus so that we can then ease up for Christmas and the New Year moving forward. For the rest of Sydney, can I please ask everybody to abandon nonessential activity until that time. We don't want the virus to spread outside of the Northern Beaches."

Until this week, the country had gone more than two weeks without any local transmission and had lifted most restrictions ahead of Christmas.

But the Sydney outbreak prompted states and territories to reimpose border restrictions, sending holiday travel plans for thousands into chaos.

Authorities do not know the origin of the virus from this particular outbreak but genome testing suggests it is a U.S. strain.

New South Wales (NSW) state government is expected to announce whether further restrictions will be imposed on Sunday for the rest of Sydney, home to around five million people.