New South Wales' impressive streak of no locally acquired cases of coronavirus has been broken.
Up to 8pm on Tuesday, the Australian state recorded three new cases, all from returned travellers in hotel quarantine – but after that recording period three additional, locally acquired cases were uncovered.
The new locally acquired cases are not believed to be linked to each other, and are spread across the Parramatta, Camden and Wollondilly areas – two women and a man, all aged in their 50s.
Contact tracers are racing to identify close contacts of the new mystery cases.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said testing numbers across the state were too low, especially considering the new cases.
"Our suspicions the virus is always lurking in the community are founded – and we wouldn't have said it if we didn't mean it," she said.
The news comes after NSW Health issued an urgent warning to nearly half a million residents living in south-western Sydney and the Hawkesbury areas to come forward for testing.
Recent samples of sewage in the areas uncovered traces of the virus, despite no recent cases in the area.
This break in the state's 12-day streak with no community transmission resets the clock for the border between NSW and Queensland to open, which Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said would take 28 days of no locally acquired cases.
Berejiklian delivered a stinging barb to her northern counterpart, suggesting there is no way the state would ever be able to go four weeks with no local cases.
"We have to assume during the course of the pandemic that from time to time, we're always going to have this," she said.
"We're always going to have cases pop up because we're in a pandemic, but also in an economy that is open … where we don't have borders but for Victoria.
"So I say to the Queensland government, I appreciate you'll probably come out today and say the 28 days is ticking again from the start, but I will put to you – until the end of the pandemic, it's highly unlikely, highly improbable that NSW will ever get to 28 days of no community transmission, because that is not how a pandemic works.
"Queensland and WA have the luxury of closing their borders, so they have a higher chance of having zero community transmitted cases."
Berejiklian said Wednesday's news would not stop the government working to ease restrictions over summer, noting: "We'll never be out of the woods until there's a vaccine."
"We want to continue to work with industry, continue looking at what restrictions we might be able to ease over summer, but we will have more confidence to make those decisions if we see a high rate of compliance [from businesses].
"What is also top of mind for us is our success has been borne from a combination of good advice from the experts, but also an outstanding response from the community."