Australia’s COVID-19 Delta outbreak worsens despite Sydney lockdown

A woman wearing a protective mask walks past restaurant tables in the city center during a lockdown to help contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia on July 5, 2021, as per public health regulations for Seating are closed. REUTERS / Loren Elliott

  • Sydney faces an extension of the lockdown
  • Daily cases at record high for the year, total infections near 700
  • Changes to public vaccination recommendations

SYDNEY, July 12 (Reuters) – The prospect of an extended lockdown in Sydney loomed on Monday as Australian health officials reported another record daily increase in COVID-19 cases for the year, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant .

The state of New South Wales reported 112 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, almost all in Sydney, despite the country’s largest city entering its third week of lockdown. The number of cases has been at a record level for at least three days.

However, there was a ray of hope when the number of newly infected people in the community while they were infectious fell from 45 on Sunday to 34.

Minister of State Gladys Berejiklian said progress on that number in the coming days will determine whether the Sydney lockdown, which ends Friday, is extended.

“This is the number we need to get as close to zero as possible,” said Berejiklian during her daily television briefing. “It’s really up to us. The advice of health professionals is based on what these numbers look like. I can’t be any clearer.”

Berejiklian said most of the cases on Monday were family members or close friends of already infected people and pleaded with residents to comply with the tightened lockdown rules over the weekend. Continue reading

The total number of infections in the outbreak is approaching 700, less than a month since it was first discovered in mid-June. 63 people are in the hospital, 18 in intensive care, officials said, while a woman in her 90s marked the country’s first COVID-19 death this year.

Lockdown measures on Sydney’s five million residents, including school closings and stay-at-home orders, have raised concerns about an economic slowdown that returned to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter. Continue reading

Debbie Brincat has cut the pet store she runs with her husband Andrew in the western suburb of Fairfield to just four hours a day in response to movement restrictions.

Andrew’s Bird & Pet Palace, which the couple has run for nearly 40 years, posted sales of A $ 150 on Sunday, compared with an average of more than A $ 3,000 ($ 2,245).

Brincat told Reuters she was “very scared right now” and wasn’t sure the company would be eligible for government funding.

Australia has previously successfully suppressed COVID-19 outbreaks through quick bans, quick contact tracing and strict social distancing rules. With a total of around 31,200 cases and 911 deaths since the pandemic began, the country has outperformed many other developed economies.

VACCINATION REVIEW

The Sydney outbreak put Australia’s sluggish vaccine adoption to the test. Only 11% of Australia’s adult population of just over 20.5 million are fully vaccinated. Continue reading

Critics have pointed to confusing public advice and vaccine shortages.

Federal Health Guide recommends the locally made AstraZeneca (AZN.L) Vaccine will be limited to people over 60 years of age due to blood clot concerns while the imported Pfizer (PFE.N) Vaccination is currently limited to people between the ages of 40 and 60.

However, New South Wales authorities said vaccination centers and pharmacies would now be authorized to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over 40. NSW officials have also recommended shortening the interval between the recommended 12 weeks between AstraZeneca vaccine doses to six weeks.

The state government said it will open a vaccination center on Friday in west Sydney, the epicenter of the outbreak, to give priority access to vaccinations to more than 10,000 teachers and school staff in the area.

Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the state teachers’ association, said the move was “a welcome first step in prioritizing all teachers”.

Lt. Gen. John Frewen, head of the COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force, defended a newly released ad Monday showing a teen-looking intubated woman in a hospital bed struggling to breathe and urging people to get vaccinated.

“We believed the conditions in Sydney at the moment for this commercial,” said Frewen. “It’s utterly confrontational and we didn’t take it lightly.”

($ 1 = 1.3360 Australian dollars)

Reporting from Renju Jose; Editing by Jane Wardell

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