Sydney and some surrounding areas will enter a tough two-week Covid-19 lockdown on Saturday as authorities struggle to control a fast-spreading outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant that has grown to 80 cases.
More than 1 million people in downtown Sydney and the eastern suburbs of Australia’s largest city have already been locked down due to the outbreak, but health officials said they would have to widen the curbs after more infections were recorded, with exposure sites over the initial concerns rose.
“Even if we don’t want to impose burdens unless we absolutely have to, unfortunately this is a situation in which we have to,” said Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister of New South Wales.
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Australia has been more successful than many other advanced economies in managing the pandemic through rapid border closings, social distancing rules and high compliance, reporting just over 30,400 cases and 910 Covid-19 deaths.
But the country is struggling with the introduction of vaccinations, and the states have been hit by small outbreaks in recent months. These have been contained through quick contact tracing, isolating thousands of people at the same time, or tough lockdowns.
Saturday’s lockdown in New South Wales also includes the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong regions that surround Sydney.
The rules, in effect until July 9, allow people to leave their homes for important work, medical care, education, or shopping. The rest of the state will have restrictions on public gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors.
“There was no point doing it for three or five days because it wouldn’t have done the job,” Berejiklian said at a press conference.
Your Conservative state government was reluctant to impose the lockdown, but a growing number of health professionals have been calling for it as Australia remains largely unvaccinated.
On Saturday, the fall of a worker at the Granites gold mine in the Northern Territory’s Tanami Desert prompted the territory’s authorities to order the isolation of more than 1,600 people in three states who had been in contact with the worker.
The mine, owned by Newmont Corp, has been closed.