SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Sydney's Delta-variant outbreak has not peaked and residents must brace for more deaths, the authorities said on Wednesday (Aug 18), as Australia's largest city continued to break records for new daily infections despite a nearly two-month lockdown.
"We haven't seen the worst of it and the way that we stop this is by everybody staying at home," New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney, the state capital.
NSW reported 633 locally acquired Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, its biggest daily rise in infections, as officials struggle to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious variant in Sydney, which accounted for 545 of the new infections.
The state had reported 478 cases, its previous daily high, on Monday. Sixty people have died since the first Delta-variant case was reported in Sydney on June 16, including three confirmed on Wednesday.
"Every person who has the virus is spreading it to at least more than one person. What the data is telling us in the last few days is that we haven't seen the worst of it," Ms Berejiklian said.
With only about 28 per cent of people in NSW above 16 years of age fully vaccinated, state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned there would be more deaths if cases continued to rise.
Australia is in the grip of a third wave of infections that has exposed weaknesses in the country's vaccine roll-out and forced more than half of its 25 million people into lockdown.
Only one-fourth of the adult population is fully vaccinated so far, putting pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison whose government missed its initial vaccine targets.
Sydney, Melbourne and the capital Canberra are under stay-at-home orders, pushing the A$2 trillion (S$2 trillion) economy on the brink of its second recession in as many years.
Victoria state, where Melbourne is the state capital, on Wednesday reported 24 locally acquired cases of Covid-19, the same number as a day earlier, as the authorities race to track infections with an unknown source.
A total of four mystery cases, the ones whose source is still unidentified, were among the new infections, in line with the trend over the past several days. Of the new cases, six have spent time in the community while infectious.
With just more than 40,000 cases and 970 deaths, Australia has largely staved off the high Covid-19 numbers seen in many other developed countries.
But efforts to contain the outbreak to Sydney have failed with the virus spreading to several regional towns where vaccination rates are low.