Australia extends Sydney lockdown as Delta outbreak grows
The Australian city of Sydney has gone into a two-week lockdown after a rise in the number of coronavirus cases.
More than one million people in central and eastern suburbs were already under restrictions imposed on Friday following a jump in cases.
The lockdown now covers the whole city and some surrounding areas, and is extended from one week to two.
More than 80 cases of the highly infectious Delta variant have been confirmed in the city in recent days.
New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said stay-at-home orders would be in place until 9 July for all of Greater Sydney – with a population of about five million – and the surrounding regions of Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong.
“When you have a contagious variant, like the Delta virus, a three-day lockdown doesn’t work – if we’re going to do this we need to do it properly,” she said.
“We do need to brace ourselves for a potentially large number of cases in the following days.”
Police have said they will use number plate recognition technology to monitor vehicles and ensure people have not strayed out of their lockdown zone.
Australia has consistently maintained very low rates of Covid transmission and this is the first lockdown in Sydney – its largest city – since December.
The outbreak of new infections emerged a week ago in Bondi, the famous beach suburb, and spread first into the city centre and then to its western fringes.
It has been linked to a driver who transported international arrivals from the airport.
State Health Minister Brad Hazzard described the Delta variant – which first emerged in India – as a “very formidable foe”.
“No matter what defensive steps we’re taking at the moment, the virus seems to understand how to counter-attack,” he said.
In a video message, Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked residents for their patience and forbearance, adding: “Together, Sydney, we’ll get through this.”
“This pandemic, sadly, is still raging all around the world and from time to time it will have its impact here in Australia,” he said.
The latest outbreak has fuelled criticism of the federal government’s slow vaccination rollout.
So far, just over 3% of the adult population have been fully vaccinated and about 25% of Australians have received a first dose. Government critics have argued that cities will not need to endure lockdowns again if a majority of the population is vaccinated.