MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, reported a record 1,035 locally acquired Covid-19 infections on Saturday (Aug 28), exceeding the previous record of 1,029 seen on Thursday.
Two more people have died in the current outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant, which began in the state in mid-June. There are 778 people now admitted to hospital, 125 of them in the intensive care unit, the New South Wales health ministry said on Twitter.
More than half of Australians have been in weeks-long lockdowns as officials in Sydney and Melbourne, the country's largest cities, and the capital Canberra struggle to quell the outbreak.
Meanwhile, Victoria, Australia's second most populous state, reported 64 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases in the 24-hour period to Friday evening, health officials said on Saturday.
Despite the record in New South Wales, the state's conservative Liberal Party government said it would ease some restrictions next week, allowing for five-guest weddings.
The state's management of the outbreak - which has nearly 14,700 active cases - has been criticised by officials in neighbouring Victoria, who have imposed stricter restrictions, believing the outbreak there can be suppressed.
Australia, still largely unvaccinated, has been battling a surge of cases involving the highly infectious coronavirus Delta variant.
Still, with some 48,800 cases and 991 deaths recorded since the start of the pandemic, Australia has kept its Covid-19 numbers relatively low.
So far, 33.7 per cent of people above age 16 have been fully vaccinated, although the pace of vaccinations has picked up significantly in recent weeks. Based on current rates, Australia should hit 80 per cent by mid-November.
The federal government announced last month a plan that envisaged lockdowns as a key strategy to quell outbreaks until 70 per cent of the population gets vaccinated and a gradual re-opening of Australia's borders when that number reaches 80 per cent.
Of the new cases reported on Saturday in Victoria, 36 people were in quarantine during their infectious period, the state's health department said on Twitter. While most cases are linked to existing outbreaks, 15 were of unknown origin.
Neighbouring New Zealand, which had been largely virus-free this year, is also fighting a Delta outbreak, reporting 82 new locally acquired cases on Saturday, all in the epicentre Auckland, as the nation remains under a strict lockdown.