Sydney, home to a fifth of Australia’s 25 million people, fell into lockdown on June 26 when an outbreak of a Delta variant persuaded officials to tighten restrictions in a country that has been slow to vaccinate. The strict stay-at-home orders were supposed to end on Friday, but now remain in effect until July 16.
“This Delta strain is a game changer, extremely communicable and more contagious than any other form of the virus we have seen,” New South Wales State Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
With Sydney battling its worst outbreak of the year so far, total infections have surpassed 350 since the first case was detected three weeks ago, in its Bondi Beach suburb in a limo driver carrying the crew of a foreign airline.
A total of 27 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases were reported Wednesday in New South Wales, up from 18 the day before. Of the new cases, 20 were isolated during or during part of their infectious period, while seven cases spent time in the community while infectious.
Lockdowns, quick contact tracing, and high community compliance with social distancing rules have helped Australia suppress past 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.
When news of the stay-at-home extension broke, Australian travel-related stocks such as Qantas Airways Ltd fell in morning trading. Supermarket chains Woolworths Group Ltd and Coles Group Ltd, which investors expected to benefit from higher sales during the lockdowns, were trading around 1% higher, outperforming a slightly higher overall market.
‘Please stay home’
New South Wales’ Berejiklian and health officials warned Sydney residents that they expect cases to increase in the next 24 hours and urged residents in three areas in the west of the city: Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool , all experiencing an increase in cases, to avoid going out. from their homes and visiting indoor areas.
“Please stay home … Don’t visit loved ones, try to get involved through digital means,” said Kerry Chant, NSW’s director of state health.
Meanwhile, Sydney schools will move to remote learning starting next week, after wrapping up their winter break in the southern hemisphere on Friday, to eliminate overcrowding while parents drop off and pick up children.
Unlike many other states, New South Wales was reluctant to order a city-wide lockdown in the early stages of the outbreaks, but the highly transmissible Delta strain forced a reconsideration.
New South Wales has had to face criticism from some other states about its closure strategies, although it had the support of the federal government.
Health authorities are also under fire for inadvertently vaccinating several high school students, who are at the end of the vaccination queue, but New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard criticized the media for highlighting the mistake. .
“You know what? The school had good intentions. There was a mistake and so what? It happened, out of a million shots. Go ahead!” Hazzard said.