- Delta is a game changer – Prime Minister
- Lockdown from Sydney until July 16th July
- Prepare for more cases, officials warn Sydney residents
- The vaccination campaign has lagged significantly behind the original schedule
SYDNEY, July 7 (Reuters) – The leader of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) on Wednesday ordered a week-long extension of Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown, warning that new cases will increase as the largest city in the Landes with the highly infectious Delta variant.
Sydney was home to a fifth of Australia’s 25 million residents Locked down on June 26th when an outbreak of the Delta variant convinced officials to tighten restrictions in a country that was slow to vaccinate. Strict home stay orders were supposed to end on Friday but will now remain in effect until July 16.
“This Delta strain is a game changer, it’s extremely transmissible and more contagious than any other form of virus we’ve seen,” NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
As Sydney battled its worst outbreak of the year to date, the total number of infections has surpassed 350 since the first case was discovered three weeks ago in a limo driver transporting flight crews from overseas.
A total of 27 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were reported in NSW on Wednesday, up from 18 the day before. Of the new cases, 20 were in isolation either during or for part of their infection phase, while seven cases spent time in the community while contagious.
Bans, quick contact tracing, and high community compliance with social distancing rules have helped Australia suppress previous outbreaks and keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 30,800 cases and 910 deaths. The current lockdown is Sydney’s second since the pandemic began.
Health officials warned Sydney residents they expect cases to increase in the next 24 hours and urged residents of three western suburbs – Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool – to stay home.
Liverpool Deputy Mayor Mazhar Hadid said there was “no choice” but to seal off the neighborhood.
“I know it affects small businesses in Liverpool, it’s like they lost their city, but we have to do the right thing,” he told Reuters.
Schools in Sydney will switch to distance learning next week when they return from the winter break.
With fewer than 10% of Australians fully vaccinated and rolling restrictions imposed in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and Sydney, the lockdowns are starting to hit residents as they watch other parts of the world open up.
While crowds gather to watch the tennis championships at Wimbledon, sporting events such as the Australian F1 Grand Prix have been canceled.
“Let’s lock up the people who are at risk, you don’t lock up healthy people because a few are sick. It just doesn’t make sense and your numbers don’t justify it, ”Sydney-based Paul Coleman told Reuters in Bondi, near the epicenter of the recent outbreak.
Australia’s vaccination campaign has lagged well behind the original schedules after age restrictions were imposed on AstraZeneca (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine, the backbone of the country program, due to low risk of blood clots.
Canberra has since sought additional supplies from Pfizer. to secure (PFE.N) Vaccine, although large quantities are not expected to arrive until later this year.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters that “challenges were imposed” in the vaccination program, but the pace was picking up.
Reporting by Renju Jose and Byron Kaye; Additional reporting from Jill Gralow, Jonathan Barrett, and Colin Packham; Adaptation by Kenneth Maxwell and Stephen Coates
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