Australian authorities yesterday pleaded with Sydney’s 5mn residents to stay home, warning a three-week lockdown may be extended as they struggle to control a Covid-19 outbreak, with the city reporting the biggest rise in local cases in 2021.
Hundreds of extra police patrolled parts of Sydney to enforce the city’s lockdown orders imposed to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant which now has a total of more than 400 cases.
“New South Wales (state) is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “At the moment the numbers are not heading in the right direction.”
“Please do not leave your house. Do not leave your home, unless you absolutely have to,” Berejiklian said.
Fourty-four locally acquired cases were reported yesterday in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, eclipsing 38 a day earlier, with 29 of those having spent time in the community while infected.
There are currently 43 cases in hospital, with 10 people in intensive care, four of whom require ventilation.
The rise in cases is despite a two week lockdown of Australia’s largest city, which has now been extended to a third week ending July 16.
In Sydney’s southwestern suburbs, now the epicentre of the outbreak, streets were virtually deserted yesterday, with groups of police patrolling the suburbs.
In efforts to further restrict people’s interaction, from yesterday evening public gatherings were limited to two people and residents are only allowed to travel 10kms from their home.
Berejiklian also rejected reports the government was considering a shift of policy to “living with the virus”, citing low vaccine coverage in Australia.
“If we choose to live with this while the rates of vaccinations are at 9%, we will see thousands and thousands of hospitalisations and deaths,” Berejiklian said.
Although Australia has fared much better than many other developed countries in keeping its Covid-19 numbers relatively low, its vaccination rollout has been among the slowest due to supply constraints and changing medical advice for its mainstay AstraZeneca shots.
Australia has relied on the Astrazenica vaccine to fight the pandemic, but now limits it to people aged over 60 in its mass vaccination centres due to the risk of bloodclots, leaving short supplies of Pfizer for people 40-60 years of age.
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