Coronavirus Global situation

Lockdown measures extended in Australia to curb Covid-19

The Sydney Opera House shrouded in fog in Sydney yesterday. With more than five million residents of greater Sydney under a lockdown until July 9, New South Wales state reported 22 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases yesterday, all linked to prior
The Sydney Opera House shrouded in fog in Sydney yesterday. With more than five million residents of greater Sydney under a lockdown until July 9, New South Wales state reported 22 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases yesterday, all linked to prior infections. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY • Australian officials extended lockdown and social distancing measures to more of the country, with four major cities already under a hard lockdown in a race to contain an outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant.

Around one in two Australians are under stay-at-home orders, with millions of others subjected to movement curbs and mandatory mask wearing amid Covid-19 flare-ups in several locations.

With more than five million residents of greater Sydney under a two-week lockdown until July 9, New South Wales state reported 22 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases yesterday, all linked to prior infections.

"New South Wales is demonstrating a steady rate of cases at this stage... but to date, our fears about huge escalation haven't materialised and we certainly want to keep it that way," state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in Sydney.

The number of cases was up slightly from the previous two days, but still below the peak of the current outbreak of 30 new cases reported on Sunday.

With about 170 new locally transmitted cases since the first infection was detected two weeks ago in a limousine driver who transported overseas airline crew, New South Wales is the worst-affected territory in the current outbreak.

Residents of Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin were joined in lockdown yesterday by those of the outback town of Alice Springs, the gateway to Unesco World Heritage-listed Uluru. Officials issued stay-at-home orders for the town after a potentially infected traveller used the airport.

South Australia, meanwhile, reported its first locally transmitted cases for the year, but stopped short of imposing a full lockdown, saying it believed the threat was contained.

Officials instead limited home gatherings and urged people to wear masks in public after they reported five new cases - a miner who had returned home from a Northern Territory mine and his wife and children who had been in self-isolation.

Elsewhere in the country, Queensland reported three new locally acquired cases, Western Australia logged one and the Northern Territory recorded none.

In a sign of growing concern at the outbreak in Australia, Singapore yesterday said travellers arriving from Australia will have to undergo home quarantine for a week from tomorrow.

Lockdowns, tough social distancing, swift contact tracing and a high community compliance have helped Australia quash prior outbreaks and keep its Covid-19 numbers relatively low. It has reported just over 30,550 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began.

But less than 5 per cent of its 20 million adult population have been fully vaccinated, leading to criticism of a sluggish national inoculation drive.

The federal government on Monday announced that it would indemnify doctors who administer AstraZeneca's vaccine shots to people under 60, after previously preferencing Pfizer-BioNTech doses for that age group due to blood clot concerns.

Two deaths - of a 52-year-old woman and a 48-year-old woman - have been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, the Queensland state authorities said they would not endorse the move, noting it would unnecessarily put their younger population at risk.

"I don't want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got Covid, probably wouldn't die," Queensland state Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said in a media conference.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2021, with the headline Lockdown measures extended in Australia to curb Covid-19. Subscribe