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Sydney tightens lockdown as Covid-19 cases rise in Australia

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Sydney tightens lockdown as Covid-19 cases rise in Australia
SYDNEY: The Australian city of Sydney on Saturday ordered construction sites to close, banned nonessential retail and threatened fines for employers forcing staff into the office as new Covid-19 cases continued to rise three weeks after a citywide lockdown.
Authorities in the state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, also banned hundreds of thousands of people in the city’s western suburbs, the hardest hit area, from leaving their immediate neighborhoods to work, as they recorded 111 new cases in the previous 24. hours, compared to 97 the day before.
The state also recorded an additional death from the virus, bringing the total to three since the start of the year and the national total to 913 since the pandemic began.
“I cannot recall a time when our state was challenged to such an extent,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a televised news conference.
The city of 5 million people, Australia’s largest, has been closed since June 26, with an expected completion date of July 30, after an airport traffic driver brought the virus to the community. and caused an outbreak of the highly infectious variant, according to authorities.
Since then, more than 1,000 people in the city and surrounding districts have tested positive. What worries health leaders most is the number of contagious people who are active in the community, which stood at 29 on Saturday, in line with previous days.
“We are chasing our tail in terms of cases,” said state health director Kerry Chant at the news conference.
New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys said “the pace of police response will increase” in Greater Sydney and regional areas.
Stores that can remain open in Sydney include supermarkets, drug stores, and hardware stores. All construction work must stop until the July 30 deadline, including cleaning, property maintenance and home renovation, authorities said.
People living in three of Sydney’s local government districts, with a total population of 612,000, were prohibited from leaving their districts to work unless they were emergency workers. The city already has a work-from-home directive for businesses, but employers who told staff to come to the office would be fined A $ 10,000 ($ 7,402.00), they said.
The neighboring state of Victoria also reported an increase in daily Covid-19 cases to 19, from six the day before, raising fears that it could extend a brief lockdown that was scheduled to end on Tuesday.
The state of 7 million people on Thursday joined the 5 million residents of the city of Sydney, who make up almost half of Australia’s population, as it went into lockdown following an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Australia avoided the high number of infections and deaths from many other countries in the initial stages of the pandemic due to an assertive response that included border closures, stay-at-home orders and economic stimulus measures.
But a year and a half later, the federal government is under pressure from a slow launch of the vaccine that some experts attribute to changes in regulatory advice for the AstraZeneca vaccine and limited supply of the drug from Pfizer Inc.
Just over 10% of Australia’s 25 million people are fully vaccinated, according to government data, a fraction of the rates in the United States and Britain.
Still, Australia’s death rate from the new coronavirus – just over 900 deaths out of roughly 31,500 cases – is still low by comparison.
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