Sydney's worsening Delta surge forces lockdown extension

Stay-at-home orders extended

Sydney's worsening Delta surge forces lockdown extension

by Jason Scott

Sydney’s outbreak of Delta variant cases is worsening, with Australia’s largest city responsible for the bulk of new daily COVID-19 infections as New South Wales state passed 1,000 for the first time. 

Stay-at-home orders for New South Wales will be extended until at least Sept. 10, Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Thursday. The state saw a record 1,029 daily infections since the outbreak began in the city in mid-June, she said, and three more people died.

The cases eclipse the previous daily record of 919, which was recorded on Wednesday. The surge shows Sydney’s lockdown isn’t managing to flatten the curve of new infections, despite being in place for more than two months.

Still, Berejiklian -- who has said the state must learn to live with the virus -- announced that from Sept. 13, some restrictions will be lifted in areas of Sydney which currently have relatively low case numbers. Vaccinated people will be able to gather outdoors in groups of five, she said.

Those who are vaccinated in areas hardest-hit by the virus -- including the city’s least-affluent south and southwestern suburbs -- will be able to gather outdoors for recreation, in addition to the one hour a day currently allowed for exercise.

Sydney’s outbreak, driven by the highly-contagious Delta variant, has spread to other regions of Australia including Melbourne and national capital Canberra. More than half of the country’s population has been put in lockdown and some authorities are considering abandoning COVID-Zero, which seeks to eliminate community transmission.

While hundreds of thousands of people per day are now being vaccinated after a slow start to Australia’s rollout, cases continue to rise in areas of New South Wales -- including in the state’s west, which have relatively large populations of vulnerable Indigenous people.

“The decision to extend the lockdown is one to protect communities and protect the regions,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro said. “We’re sitting on a knife edge. It’s a tinderbox ready to explode.”

--With assistance from Tim Smith, Georgina Mckay and Matthew Burgess.


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