Rick Rycroft / AP
CANBERRA, Australia – Sydney’s two-week lockdown has been extended for another week due to the vulnerability of a largely unvaccinated Australian population against COVID-19, authorities said Wednesday.
“The situation we are in now is largely due to the fact that we have not been able to get the vaccine we need,” said New South Wales Minister of Health Brad Hazzard.
The decision to extend the lockdown until July 16 was made by health council, said State Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“The reason we have extended the lockdown is due to a number of cases that are still infectious in the community and we extended the lockdown to give us the best chance of not having another lockdown,” said Berejiklian.
The extent of the lockdown, which covers Australia’s largest city and some nearby communities, means that most children will not be back in school the next week after their mid-year break.
Of 27 new infections of the delta variant reported in the last 24-hour period on Wednesday, only 13 had been isolated while infectious, authorities said. The delta variant is considered more contagious than the parent coronavirus or other variants.
Only 9% of Australian adults are fully vaccinated, raising fears that the delta variant could spread rapidly out of control.
Berejiklian hoped the blockades would no longer be necessary once a large majority of Australians were vaccinated.
There have been more than 300 infections related to a limo driver who tested positive on June 16. It is believed that he was infected while transporting an American flight crew from Sydney airport.
Last week, nearly half of Australia’s population was locked in, and cities on the east, west and north coasts tightened pandemic restrictions due to clusters. Some of those blockades lasted as little as three days.
Sydney and its surroundings are the only part of Australia that is still closed.
Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, recording fewer than 31,000 cases and a total of 910 deaths.
Australia has recorded a single death from COVID-19 since October – an 80-year-old man who died in April after being infected abroad and diagnosed in hotel quarantine.
But now there are 37 cases of COVID-19 in Sydney hospitals. Of these, seven are in intensive care, the youngest in their 30s.