Labor MPs have returned to the Hunter after potentially being exposed to COVID-19 in Parliament, raising questions about how the case has been handled.
Hunter New England Health has asked the community to reconsider non-essential travel to Sydney, "especially with the school holidays approaching", as the Delta-strain outbreak spreads in the state capital.
Part of the concern in Sydney was centred on Parliament House, where MPs were ordered to get tested and remain isolated in their offices after Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall announced at 8am that he had tested positive following a dinner with three Nationals colleagues at a Paddington pizzeria on Monday night.
Mr Marshall said he had been isolating since being informed on Tuesday night that he was a close contact of a positive case at the restaurant. He attended a party-room meeting on Tuesday, sat in Question Time and attended a post-budget Nationals fundraiser in Parliament House's Strangers Dining Room with other government MPs, including the Premier, before learning he was a close contact.
NSW Health informed at least some of the attendees at the Nationals fundraiser that they had been exposed to COVID-19 and must isolate until July 6. It also identified Health Minister Brad Hazzard as a close contact of Mr Marshall's and ordered him into two weeks of isolation.
By the time Mr Marshall announced his positive test result, several Hunter MPs, including Kate Washington, Yasmin Catley, Sonia Hornery, Jenny Aitchison and Jodie Harrison, had either returned home to their families or were on their way.
Ms Aitchison went back to Sydney for testing after developing cold-like symptoms on the drive home.
The Department of Parliamentary Services sent MPs an email at 5pm on Thursday saying NSW Health had advised that "out of an abundance of caution" it was assessing who had come into close contact with Mr Marshall on Tuesday.
"Anyone who attended Parliament House on Tuesday 22nd of June and had any contact of any kind with the Member needs to get tested and self-isolate until further public health advice is provided," it said.
"Contact would include speaking directly to the Member, being in a room with the Member, passing the Member in a corridor, sharing a lift or otherwise being in close proximity."
It was not immediately clear whether anyone on the floor of Parliament during Question Time on Tuesday, which would include all the Labor MPs, would be classed as a close contact.
The email said any MP deemed a close contact "cannot travel home to a regional area unless they have a travel plan approved by NSW Health and the ability to self-isolate".
Lake Macquarie independent MP Greg Piper, Upper Hunter Nationals MP Dave Layzell and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Taylor Martin were stuck in their offices in Parliament House for much of Thursday awaiting the results of rapid tests.
Mr Piper said in the afternoon that he and a staff member had tested negative.
All the Hunter's Labor MPs said they had been tested on Thursday morning and were isolating or being cautious while awaiting results.
Mr Layzell said he expected to be classified as a close contact after meeting Mr Marshall on Tuesday to talk about the mouse plague, attending the party-room meeting and speaking at the fundraising dinner.
Ms Aitchison, who was due to host a 50th anniversary dinner for her parents on Saturday, described budget day as a "super-spreader event they've failed to control", a comment Mr Taylor labelled "irresponsible".
Ms Catley said she had been about a metre from Mr Marshall during Question Time but had not received advice from NSW Health that she was a close contact.
"Aren't we all close contacts?" she said.
Mr Piper said the advice from NSW Health and Parliamentary Services had been "first rate".
"This outbreak is a reminder of why we need to get vaccinated and follow advice from NSW Health," he said.