Sydney readies for tighter lockdown rules as Delta Covid-19 variant gains ground

People at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on Aug 11, 2021.
People at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on Aug 11, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Sydney looks set to further tighten lockdown rules on Friday (Aug 13) as daily Covid-19 cases hover near record highs despite a nearly seven-week lockdown, while Victoria state reported a slight easing in infections.

The police in New South Wales (NSW) state, of which Sydney is the capital, have requested an extra 500 military personnel to help enforce home-quarantine orders, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, without citing a source.

The authorities on Thursday said extra unarmed defence personnel may be called in soon to patrol the city's worst-affected suburbs as movement restrictions were tightened for residents in three local council areas.

The offices of the Defence Minister and New South Wales premier did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Australia's national Cabinet is due to meet later on Friday amid worries the outbreak in Sydney caused by the highly infectious Delta strain could sweep through the country, where only about 25 per cent of people above 16 are fully vaccinated.

Daily cases in NSW have topped 300 for the past three days.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, under fire for a sluggish vaccination roll-out, has been calling fellow world leaders in a bid to procure immediate vaccine shipments, the Australian Financial Review reported on Friday, as the latest outbreaks have spurred a surge in people getting inoculated.

The prime minister's office did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Australia's two largest cities - Sydney and Melbourne - are in extended lockdowns while residents in the country's capital city of Canberra woke up on Friday to their first strict stay-home restrictions in more than a year.

Despite the recent outbreaks, Australia still has far lower Covid-19 numbers than many other countries in the developed world, with just over 37,700 cases and 946 deaths.

In Victoria, 15 new local cases were detected, all of them in Melbourne, down from 21 on Thursday. Of the new cases, seven have spent time outside while infectious, the state's health department said. Eleven are linked to the current outbreak.