A hair salon servicing Sydney’s rich and famous has become the centre of an intensive contact tracing operation with more than 900 of its clients potentially exposed to COVID-19.
- About 900 clients were exposed to the infectious Delta strain
- There are now 65 cases linked to the Bondi cluster
- NSW Health is urging all clients who visited the salon on June 15 and 23 to be tested and quarantine
The Joh Bailey hair salon in Double Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is linked to several confirmed COVID-19 infections which previously health authorities were unable to connect to a known case or cluster.
The establishment was founded by celebrity hairstylist Joh Bailey whose clientele include the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Kylie Minogue, Elle Macpherson and Linda Evangelista.
NSW Health said on Wednesday a male hairdresser from Western Sydney who worked in the city salon tested positive for the virus, before passing it on to three of his close contacts.
The state’s chief health officer Kerry Chant said through “detective work”, contact tracers were able to establish a clear transmission chain.
“Investigations have revealed that a person who was infectious on June 15 and 16 was the source of the infection for the Joh Bailey hairdressing in Double Bay, Fresh Nails salon in Westfield Bondi Junction and the Life Cafe, Bondi,” she said.
“A close contact of this person then introduced the infection to the Tropicana Cafe [in Darlinghurst].”
Although health authorities were relishing being able to finally connect the dots, Dr Chant said there are at least 900 clients who were now at risk of contracting the highly contagious Delta strain of the virus.
On Thursday, Bailey took to social media to reveal he and the salon’s co-founder Marilyn Koch had tested negative and to express his frustration that the “sneaky bugger” coronavirus had infiltrated his salon.
“This is unchartered territory and obviously an extremely difficult time,” he wrote.
“We have always maintained a high standard of COVID procedures but the sneaky bugger got in somehow!”
There are now 65 cases linked to the Bondi cluster, which began with an unvaccinated limousine driver who transported international flight crew.
The ultra-infectious Delta COVID-19 variant has been spreading through Sydney for over a week, and while health authorities have been able to trace all but one new infection, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her government needed to step up its response.
The salon has become, alongside a West Hoxton birthday party and the Westfield at Bondi Junction, a venue of significant concern.
“We’ve found the link that explains those unlinked cases,” Dr Chant said.
“But then that led to a number of seeding events … we’re concerned [about] the over 900 clients that attended or potentially are contacts that may acquire the infection.”
Dr Chant said the health department had been working to contact all the people potentially affected and said each person is isolation.
“I’ve got significant concerns for patrons and staff of the Joh Bailey … because we have at least three staff members who were working whilst infectious and with two confirmed cases amongst clients so far,” she said.
“I expect more cases to be detected over the coming days and I’m urging all clients and staff of Joh Bailey between June 15 and 23 to be tested and maintain quarantine as directed by NSW Health.”