Australia's Brisbane warned of prolonged Covid-19 lockdown as cases rise

People queue up for a Covid-19 test in Brisbane on Aug 2, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia's Queensland state reported 16 locally acquired Covid-19 cases on Wednesday (Aug 4) as authorities warned that a lockdown in state capital Brisbane might be extended beyond Sunday if people flout the tough restrictions.

It was the same number of cases as detected on Tuesday, and seven were linked to three schools.

Infections from the highly infectious Delta variant have plunged southeast Queensland, which includes Brisbane and some neighbouring regions, into a lockdown as officials rush to douse the outbreak, the biggest in more than a year.

State Deputy Premier Steven Miles implored residents to avoid all non-essential shopping and remain home.

"Every time someone leaves their home they increase the risk that this lockdown may need to go on is not the time to buy outdoor furniture, there will be time before summer to get sun lounges," Mr Miles told reporters in Brisbane.

Officials fear that the virus may have spread to Cairns, some 1,700km north of Brisbane after a vaccinated ship pilot tested positive for the Delta strain.

Sydney, the country's largest city, is also in lockdown until Aug 28 as daily cases have spiked to record levels.

Australia's New South Wales state on Wednesday reported 233 locally acquired cases of Covid-19, up from 199 a day earlier, as the state continues its battle to stamp out the latest outbreak from the highly infectious Delta strain.

Of the new cases, at least 47 spent time in the community while infectious, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

Snap lockdowns, speedy contact tracing and strict social distancing rules have helped Australia tame prior outbreaks and keep its Covid-19 numbers low, with just over 34,800 cases and 925 deaths since the pandemic began.

But the fast-moving Delta strain has alarmed authorities while a slow vaccine roll-out frustrated residents. Only about 20 per cent of people aged above 16 have been fully vaccinated.

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