- NSW faces “biggest challenge” in pandemic
- Reports the largest daily increase in cases in 2021
SYDNEY, July 9 (Reuters) – Australian authorities on Friday urged Sydney’s five million residents to stay home and warned that a three-week shutdown could be extended as they struggle to control a COVID-19 outbreak , where the city reports the largest increase in local cases in 2021.
Hundreds of extra police patrolled parts of Sydney to enforce the city’s lockdown orders imposed to eradicate an outbreak of the highly contagious 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 start of the pandemic,” Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “Right now, the numbers are not going in the right direction.”
“Do not leave your house. Do not leave your home unless you absolutely must,” Berejiklian said.
Eighty-four locally acquired cases were reported on Friday in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, and eclipsed 38 a day earlier, 29 of whom had spent time in the community while infected.
There are currently 43 cases in the hospital with 10 people in intensive care, four of whom need ventilation.
The rise in cases is despite a two-week shutdown of Australia’s largest city, which has now been extended to a third week ending July 16. Read more
In Sydney’s southwestern suburbs, now the epicenter of the eruption, the streets were almost deserted on Friday, with groups of police patrolling the suburbs.
In an effort to further limit people’s interaction, public gatherings from Friday night will be limited to two people, and residents will only be allowed to travel 10km from their homes.
Berejiklian also rejected reports that the government was considering changing policy to “live with the virus” citing low vaccine coverage in Australia.
“If we choose to live with this while the vaccination rate is at 9%, we will see thousands and thousands of hospitalizations 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 shifting medical care for its Pill AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shots. Read more
Australia has relied on the Astrazenica vaccine to fight the pandemic, but is now restricting it to people over 60 in its mass vaccination centers due to the risk of blood clots, leaving a shortage of Pfizer in people aged 40 to 60.
About a quarter of the admissions in the Sydney outbreak are people aged 35 and under, an age group not yet eligible for vaccinations under the government’s program.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that Pfizer would increase COVID-19 vaccine delivery to around one million doses a week from July 19, more than tripling current shipments, but said no decision had been made to make it available to those under 40 years of age.
“It puts us in a very strong position to get this job done when we move towards the end of the year and in fact maybe faster,” he said.
Pfizer said the total number of 40 million doses it has agreed to deliver to Australia during 2021 had not changed. Morrison said Pfizer shipped vaccine deliveries to Australia from September to August.
The state of South Australia would meanwhile run a lawsuit on home quarantine, Morrison said after criticizing the two-week hotel quarantine required of all people entering the country. Hotel quarantine virus leaks have been the source of Australia’s outbreak in society after the country effectively removed the virus by closing its international borders.
Jamal Rifi, a GP from a district in Sydney where the number of infections is rising, said many residents had misunderstood the risk of the Delta variant but gained attention as cases increased.
“The word has spread in the community and I reckon you will see more people now restricting their movement and taking this Delta variant more seriously.”
Reporting by Renju Jose; Clip by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry
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