Small COVID-19 outbreaks keep plaguing Australia

Medical staff conduct tests at the Bondi Beach Drive-Through Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing Center following new positive cases in Sydney, Australia, June 17, 2021. REUTERS / Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE, June 20 (Reuters) – The Australian state of Queensland recorded locally acquired coronavirus infection on Sunday, the latest series of small outbreaks to hit the country in recent months.

The Queensland case is a cluster of the highly contagious Delta variant that has grown from two cases to nine in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, prompting health officials to expand the rules for wearing masks.

“We know this strain, which is becoming the dominant strain, is extremely contagious and some people spread it more than others and what we want to avoid at this point is super-spread,” said New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian .

Australia has been very successful in managing the spread of the coronavirus through rapid border closings, social distancing rules and high community compliance, reporting just over 30,300 cases and 910 COVID-19 deaths.

But the country is struggling with the introduction of vaccinations, and the states have been plagued by small outbreaks in recent months, prevented from getting out of control by rapid contact tracing, isolation of thousands of people at once, or tough lockdowns.

The state of Victoria, which earlier this month battled a small outbreak of the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India and which put five million people in tough lockdown for two weeks, recorded no new cases on Sunday after being infected in the previous day .

On Sunday, South Australia, together with Queensland, imposed a ban on travelers who have stayed in the affected eastern suburbs of Sydney in New South Wales.

Arrivals from this state in Western Australia must be tested on arrival at pop-up testing clinics at Perth Airport and placed in self-quarantine until they get a negative result.

According to government figures, only about 4% of Australia’s adult population of 20 million are fully vaccinated, while about 25% have received at least their first dose.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Adaptation by William Mallard

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