As COVID cases rise, Australia’s New South Wales says next 2 days ‘critical’

People at Circular Quay sit at socially distant tables as the state of New South Wales experiences a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sydney, Australia on June 22, 2021. REUTERS / Loren Elliott

  • Total cases in recent NSW outbreak over 300
  • Rugby player fined for party
  • New Zealand receives largest shipment of Pfizer shots

SYDNEY / WELLINGTON, July 5 (Reuters) – Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) said Monday the next two days will be “absolutely critical” in deciding whether a two-week anti-coronavirus lockdown in Sydney ends on July 9 should be extended amid increasing cases of delta variants.

With more than five million Sydney residents on strict home instructions, the total number of infections in the most recent outbreak has surpassed 300. NSW reported 35 locally acquired cases on Monday, the largest daily increase in infections to date this year, recorded two days ago.

“We assume that the number of people in isolation will continue to rise,” NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “What we are really seeing is the number of people who are still contagious in the community and what impact that will have in the next few days.”

Of Monday’s cases, 28 were isolated either during or for part of their infection period. Seven cases spent time in the community while contagious.

“The next few days will be absolutely critical,” said Berejiklian.

Sydney, the worst-hit city in the recent infection outbreak in Australia, is struggling to contain the highly contagious Delta variant. Perth, Brisbane and the northern city of Darwin came out of lockdown over the weekend after officials there believed the Delta tribe was under control there.

NSW’s Berejiklian said the lockdown has so far been effective in limiting new cases to dozens instead of hundreds, despite saying many have violated health regulations and helped the virus to spread.

Several players on an Australian rugby league team were fined AUD 1,000 ($ 750) by NSW police for violating public health orders after a party.

Vaccines

First discovered in India and listed as one of the top four varieties by the World Health Organization, the fast-developing Delta strain has fueled fears of a major outbreak in Australia amid a sluggish vaccination campaign.

Fast bans, fast contact tracing, strict social distancing rules and high community compliance have helped Australia suppress previous outbreaks, with just over 30,750 COVID-19 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began.

With Australian states calling for more Pfizer doses (PFE.N) Vaccine said the federal government last week it expects 400,000 more shots this month, bringing monthly shipments to 2.8 million.

In Queensland, authorities said Monday that the nearly 140,000 residents who have registered for the Pfizer shots may have to wait until October or November due to delivery bottlenecks. Federal Health Secretary Greg Hunt has promised Queensland 198,000 additional Pfizer shots this month.

Meanwhile, authorities in neighboring New Zealand announced Monday that 150,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine, its largest shipment to date, had arrived just days before the country ran out of supplies.

New Zealand has extended its quarantine-free travel break to and from NSW and Queensland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a media conference on Monday, but New Zealand residents can return home from July 10 if they have negative COVID-19 results.

While Australia and New Zealand have fared much better than many other developed economies to keep COVID-19 numbers relatively low, vaccine adoption numbers are among the lowest in both countries.

Less than 10% of Australia’s adult population of just over 20.6 million to date are fully vaccinated, while more than 30% have received at least their first dose. About 9% of New Zealand’s 5 million residents have been fully vaccinated to date, while over 1.1 million people have received at least one dose.

($ 1 = 1.3293 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney and Praveen Menon in Wellington; Edited by Kenneth Maxwell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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